Skip to main content

Full text of "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall; a series of very plain talks on very practical politics, delivered by Ex-senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany philosopher, from his rostrum--the New York County court-house bootblack stand--"

See other formats


3 3433 05877163 9 

'^ 7?:^^ 



The New York 
Public Lfbrarv" 





















Copyright, 1905, hy 

Published, September 1905 



1 HIS volume discloses the mental oper- 
ations of perhaps the most thoroughly prac- 
tical politician of the day — George Wash- 
ington Plunkitt, Tammany leader of the 
Fifteenth Assembly District, Sachem of the 
Tammany Society and Chairman of the 
Elections Committee of Tammany Hall, 
who has held the offices of State Senator 
Assemblyman, Police Magistrate, County 
Supervisor and Alderman and who boasts 
of his record in filling four public offices in 
one year and drawing salaries from three of 
them at the same time. 

The discourses that follow were delivered 
by him from his rostrum, the bootblack 



stand in the County Court-house, at various 
times in the last half-dozen years. Their ab- 
solute frankness and vigorous unconvention- 
ality of thought and expression charmed me. 
Plunkitt said right out what all practical poli- 
ticians think but are afraid to say. Some of 
the discourses I published as interviews in 
the New York Evening Post, the New York 
Sun, the New York World, and the Boston 
Transcript. They were reproduced in news- 
papers throughout the country and several 
of them, notably the talks on " The Curse of 
Civil Service Reform" and "Honest Graft 
and Dishonest Graft" became subjects of 
discussion in the United States Senate and in 
college lectures. There seemed to be a gen- 
eral recognition of Plunkitt as a striking type 
of the practical politician, a politician, more- 
over, who dared to say publicly what others 
in his class whisper among themselves in the 
City Hall corridors and the hotel lobbies. 



I thought it a pity to let Plunkitt's revela- 
tions of himself — as frank in their way as 
Rousseau's "Confessions" — perish in the 
files of the newspapers; so I collected the 
talks I had published, added several new 
ones and now give to the world in this 
volume a system of political philosophy 
which is as unique as it is refreshing. 

No New Yorker needs to be informed who 
George Washington Plunkitt is. For the in- 
formation of others, the following sketch of 
his career is given. He was born, as he proud- 
ly tells, in Central Park; that is, in the terri- 
tory now included in the park. He began life 
as a driver of a cart, then became a butcher's 
boy, and later went into the butcher bus- 
iness for himself. How he entered politics he 
explains in one of his discourses. His ad- 
vancement was rapid. He was in the Assem- 
bly soon after he cast his first vote and has 
held office most of the time for forty years. 



In 1870, through a strange combination of 
circumstances, he held the places of Assem- 
blyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and 
County Supervisor and drew three salaries 
at once — a record unexampled in New 
York politics. 

Plunkitt is now a millionaire. He owes his 
fortune mainly to his political pull, as he con- 
fesses in "Honest Graft and Dishonest 
Graft." The character of his business he also 
describes fully. He is in the contracting, 
transportation, real estate, and every other 
business out of which he can make money. 
He has no oflSce. His headquarters is the 
County Court-house bootblack stand. 
There he receives his constituents, transacts 
his general business and pours forth his 

Plunkitt has been one of the great powers 
in Tammany Hall, for a quarter of a cen- 
tury. While he was in the Assembly and 



the State Senate he was one of the most 
influential members and introduced the bills 
that provided for the outlying parks of New 
York City, the Harlem River Speedway, the 
Washington Bridge, the 155th Street Viad- 
uct, the grading of Eighth Avenue north of 
Fifty-seventh Street, additions to the Museum 
of Natural History, the West Side Court, and 
many other important public improvements. 
He is one of the closest friends and most 
valued advisers of Charles F. Murphy, lead- 
er of Tammany Hall. 

William L. Riordon. 





Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft 
How TO Become a Statesman .... 
The Curse of Civil Service Reform 
Reformers only Mornin '-glories 
New York City is Pie for the Hayseeds 



To Hold Your District — Study Human Nature 

and Act Accordin' .... 
On "The Shame of The Cities" 
Ingratitude in Politics .... 
Reciprocity in Patronage .... 
Brooklynites Natural-born Hayseeds 
Tammany Leaders not Bookworms . 
Dangers of the Dress-suit in Politics 
On Municipal Ownership .... 
Tammany the only Lastin' Democracy 




Concerning Gas in Politics 113 

Plunkitt's Fondest Dream 121 

Tammany's Patriotism 127 

On the Use of Monet in Politics .... 135 
The Successful Politician Does not Drink . 143 

Bosses Preserve the Nation 150 

Concerning Excise 156 

A Parting Word on the Future of the Demo- 
cratic Party 163 

Strenuous Life of the Tammany District 

Leader 167 



Senator plunkitt is a straight 

organization man. He believes in party 
government ; he does not indulge in cant 
and hypocrisy and he is never afraid to say 
exactly what he thinks. He is a believer in 
thorough political organization and all-the- 
year-around work and he holds to the doc- 
trine that, in making appointments to office, 
party workers should be preferred if they 
are fitted to perform the duties of the office. 
Plunkitt is one of the veteran leaders of the 
organization, he has always been faithful 
and reliable and he has performed valuable 
services for Tammany Hall. 

Charles F. Murphy. 



''Everybody is taikin' these days 

about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, 
but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction 
between honest graft and dishonest graft. 
There 's all the difference in the world be- 
tween the two. Yes, many of our men have 
grown rich in politics. I have myself. I 've 
made a big fortune out of the game, and I 'm 
gettin' richer every day, but I 've not gone in 
for dishonest graft — blackmailin' gamblers, 
saloon-keepers, disorderly people, etc. — and 
neither has any of the men who have made 
big fortunes in politics. 

"There 's an honest graft, and I 'm an ex- 
ample of how it works. I might sum up the 


whole thing by sayin' : ' I seen my opportun- 
ities and I took 'em.' 

"Just let me explain by examples. My 
party 's in power in the city, and it 's goin' to 
undertake a lot of public improvements. 
Well, I 'm tipped off, say, that they 're going 
to lay out a new park at a certain place. 

"I see my opportunity and I take it. I go 
to that place and I buy up all the land I can 
in the neighborhood. Then the board of this 
or that makes its plan public, and there is a 
rush to get my land, which nobody cared 
particular for before. 

" Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good 
price and make a profit on my investment 
and foresight ? Of course, it is. Well, that 's 
honest graft. 

" Or, supposin' it 's a new bridge they 're 
goin' to build. I get tipped off and I buy as 
much property as I can that has to be taken 
for approaches. I sell at my own price later 



on and drop some more money in the 

"Wouldn't you? It's just like lookin' 
ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cot- 
ton market. It 's honest graft, and I 'm look- 
in' for it every day in the year. I will tell you 
frankly that I 've got a good lot of it, too. 

" I '11 tell you of one case. They were goin' 
to fix up a big park, no matter where. I got 
on to it, and went lookin' about for land in 
that neighborhood. 

" I could get nothin' at a bargain but a big 
piece of swamp, but I took it fast enough and 
held on to it. What turned out was just what 
I counted on. They could n't make the park 
complete without Plunkitt's swamp, and 
they had to pay a good price for it. Anything 
dishonest in that ? 

"Up in the watershed I made some 
money, too. I bought up several bits of land 
there some years ago and made a pretty good 



guess that they would be bought up for 
water purposes later by the city. 

"Somehow, I always guessed about right, 
and should n't I enjoy the profit of my fore- 
sight? It was rather amusin' when the con- 
demnation commissioners came along and 
found piece after piece of the land in the 
name of George Plunkitt of the Fifteenth As- 
sembly District, New York City. They won- 
dered how I knew just what to buy. The an- 
swer is — I seen my opportunity and I took 
it. I have n't confined myself to land ; any- 
thing that pays is in my line. 

"For instance, the city is repavin' a street 
and has several hundred thousand old gran- 
ite blocks to sell. I am on hand to buy, and I 
know just what they are worth. 

** How ? Never mind that. I had a sort of 
monopoly of this business for a while, but 
once a newspaper tried to do me. It got 
some outside men to come over from 



Brooklyn and New Jersey to bid against 

"Was I done? Not much. I went to each 
of the men and said: 'How many of these 
250,000 stones do you want.?' One said W,- 
000, and another wanted 15,000, and an- 
other wanted 10,000. I said: 'All right, let 
me bid for the lot, and I '11 give each of you 
all you want for nothin'. 

"They agreed, of course. Then the auc- 
tioneer yelled : ' How much am I bid for these 
250,000 fine pavin' stones ? ' 

Two dollars and fifty cents,' says I. 
Two dollars and fifty cents ! ' screamed 
the auctioneer. ' Oh, that 's a joke! Give me a 
real bid.' 

"He found the bid was real enough. My 
rivals stood silent. I got the lot for $2.50 and 
gave them their share. That 's how the at- 
tempt to do Plunkitt ended, and that 's how 
all such attempts end. 


(( < 

a ( 


*I Ve told you how I got rich by honest 
graft. Now, let me tell you that most 
politicians who are accused of robbin' the 
city get rich the same way. 

"They did n't steal a dollar from the city 
treasury. They just seen their opportunities 
and took them. That is why, when a reform 
administration comes in and spends a half 
million dollars in tryin' to find the public 
robberies they talked about in the cam- 
paign, they don't find them. 

"The books are always all right. The 
money in the city treasury is all right. Every- 
thing is all right. All they can show is that the 
Tammany heads of departments looked after 
their friends, w^ithin the law, and gave them 
what opportunities they could to make hon- 
est graft. Now, let me tell you that 's never 
goin' to hurt Tammany with the people. 
Every good man looks after his friends, and 
any man who does n't is n't likely to be pop- 



ular. If I have a good thing to hand out in 
private Hfe, I give it to a friend. Why 
should n't I do the same in pubhc Hfe ? 

"Another kind of honest graft. Tammany 
has raised a good many salaries. There was 
an awful howl by the reformers, but don't 
you know that Tammany gains ten votes for 
every one it lost by salary raisin' ? 

" The Wall Street banker thinks it shame- 
ful to raise a department clerk's salary from 
$1500 to $1800 a year, but every man who 
draws a salary himself says : * That 's all 
right. I wish it was me.' And he feels very 
much like votin' the Tammany ticket on 
election day, just out of sympathy. 

"Tammany was beat in 1901 because the 
people were deceived into believin' that it 
worked dishonest graft. They did n't draw a 
distinction between dishonest and honest 
graft, but they saw that some Tammany men 
grew rich, and supposed they had been rob- 



bin' the city treasury or levyin' blackmail on 
disorderly houses, or workin' in with the 
gamblers and lawbreakers. 

"As a matter of policy, if nothing else, 
why should the Tammany leaders go into 
such dirty business, when there is so much 
honest graft lyin' around when they are in 
power ? Did you ever consider that ? 

"Now, in conclusion, I want to say that I 
don't own a dishonest dollar. If my worst 
enemy was given the job of writin' my 
epitaph when I 'm gone, he could n't do 
more than write: 

"'George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Op- 
portunities, and He Took 'Enio'" 



1 HERE 'S thousands of young men in 
this city who will go to the polls for the first 
time next November. Among them will be 
many who have watched the careers of suc- 
cessful men in politics, and who are longin' to 
make names and fortunes for themselves at 
the same game. It is to these youths that I 
want to give advice. First, let me say that I am 
in a position to give what the courts call ex- 
pert testimony on the subject. I don't think 
you can easily find a better example than I 
am of success in politics. After forty years' 
experience at the game I am — well, I 'm 
George Washington Plunkitt. Everybody 
knows what figure I cut in the greatest or- 



ganization on earth, and if you hear people 
say that I 've laid away a million or so since I 
was a butcher's boy in Washington Market, 
don't come to me for an indignant denial. 
I 'm pretty comfortable, thank you. 

"Now, havin' qualified as an expert, as 
the lawyers say, I am goin' to give advice 
free to the young men w^ho are goin' to cast 
their first votes, and who are lookin' forward 
to political glory and lots of cash. Some 
young men think they can learn how to be 
successful in politics from books, and they 
cram their heads with all sorts of college rot. 
They could n't make a bigger mistake. Now, 
understand me, I ain't sayin' nothin' against 
colleges. I guess they '11 have to exist as long 
as there 's bookworms, and I suppose they 
do some good in a certain way, but they don't 
count in politics. In fact, a young man who 
has gone through the college course is handi- 
capped at the outset. He may succeed in pol- 



itics, but the chances are 100 to 1 against 

"Another mistake; some young men think 
that the best way to prepare for the pohtical 
game is to practise speakin' and becomin' 
orators. That 's all wrong. We 've got some 
orators in Tammany Hall, but they 're 
chiefly ornamental. You never heard of 
Charlie Murphy delivering a speech, did 
you ? Or Richard Croker, or John Kelly, or 
any other man who has been a real power in 
the organization ? Look at the thirty-six 
district leaders of Tammany Hall to-day. 
How many of them travel on their tongues ? 
Maybe one or two, and they don't count 
when business is doin' at Tammany Hall. 
The men who rule have practised keepin' 
their tongues still, not exercisin' them. So 
you want to drop the orator idea unless you 
mean to go into politics just to perform the 
sky-rocket act. 



"Now, I Ve told you what not to do; I 
guess I can explain best what to do to suc- 
ceed in politics by tellin' you what I did. 
xA.fter goin* through the apprenticeship of the 
business while I was a boy by workin' 
around the district headquarters and hust- 
lin' about the polls on election day, I set out 
when I cast my first vote to win fame and 
money in New York city politics. Did I offer 
my services to the district leader as a stump- 
speaker ? Not much. The woods are always 
full of speakers. Did I get up a book on mu- 
nicipal government and show it to the leader ? 
I was n't such a fool. What I did was to get 
some marketable goods before goin' to the 
leaders. What do I mean by marketable 
goods ? Let me tell you : I had a cousin, a 
young man who did n't take any particular 
interest in politics. I went to him and said: 
* Tommy, I 'm goin' to be a politician, and I 
want to get a followin' ; can I count on you ?' 



He said : ' Sure, George.' That 's how I start- 
ed in business. I got a marketable commod- 
ity — one vote. Then I went to the district 
leader and told him I could command two 
votes on election day, Tommy's and my own. 
He smiled on me and told me to go ahead. If 
I had offered him a speech or a bookful of 
learnin', he would have said, 'Oh, forget it!' 
"That was beginnin' business in a small 
way, was n't it ? But that is the only way to 
become a real lastin' statesman. I soon 
branched out. Two young men in the flat 
next to mine were school friends. I went to 
them, just as I went to Tommy, and they 
agreed to stand by me. Then I had a follow- 
in' of three voters and I began to get a bit 
chesty. Whenever I dropped into district 
headquarters, everybody shook hands with 
me, and the leader one day honored me by 
lightin' a match for my cigar. And so it went 
on like a snowball rollin' down a hill. I 


worked the flat-house that I Hved in from the 
basement to the top floor, and I got about a 
dozen young men to follow me. Then I 
tackled the next house and so on down the 
block and around the corner. Before long I 
had sixty men back of me, and formed the 
George Washington Plunkitt Association. 

"What did the district leader say then 
when I called at headquarters ? I did n't 
have to call at headquarters. He came after 
me and said : ' George, what do you want ? If 
you don't see what you want, ask for it. 
Would n't you like to have a job or two in 
the departments for your friends?' I said: 
*I '11 think it over; I haven't yet decided 
what the George Washington Plunkitt Asso- 
ciation will do in the next campaign.' You 
ought to have seen how I was courted and 
petted then by the leaders of the rival organi- 
zations. I had marketable goods and there 
was bids for them from all sides, and I was a 



risin' man in politics. As time went on, and 
my association grew, I thought I would like 
to go to the Assembly. I just had to hint at 
what I wanted, and three different organiza- 
tions offered me the nomination. Afterwards, 
I went to the Board of Aldermen, then to the 
State Senate, then became leader of the dis- 
trict, and so on up and up till I became a 

"That is the way and the only way to 
make a lastin' success in politics. If you are 
goin' to cast your first vote next November 
and want to go into politics, do as I did. Get a 
folio win', if it 's only one man, and then go 
to the district leader and say : ' I want to join 
the organization. I 've got one man who '11 
follow me through thick and thin'. The 
leader won't laugh at your one-man f ollowin'. 
He '11 shake your hand warmly, offer to pro- 
pose you for membership in his club, take 
you down to the corner for a drink and ask 



you to call again. But go to him and say: 'I 
took first prize at college in Aristotle; I can 
recite all Shakspere forwards and back- 
wards; there ain't nothin' in science that 
ain't as familiar to me as blockades on the 
elevated roads and I 'm the real thing in the 
way of silver-tongued orators.' What will he 
answer .? He'll probably say: *I guess you 
are not to blame for your misfortunes, but 
we have nu use for you here.'" 



1 HIS civil service law is the biggest fraud 
of the age. It is the curse of the nation. There 
can't be no real patriotism while it lasts. How 
are you goin' to interest our young men in 
their country if you have no offices to give 
them when they work for their party ? Just 
look at things in this city to-day. There are 
ten thousand good offices, but we can't get 
at more than a few hundred of them. How are 
we goin' to provide for the thousands of men 
who worked for the Tammany ticket ? It 
can't be done. These men were full of patri- 
otism a short time ago. They expected to be 
servin' their city, but when we tell them that 
we can't place them, do you think their patri- 


otism is goin' to last ? Not much. They say: 
' What 's the use of workin' for your country 
anyhow ? There 's nothin' in the game.' And 
what can they do ? I don't know, but I '11 tell 
you what I do know. I know more than one 
young man in past years who worked for the 
ticket and was just overflowin' with patriot- 
ism, but w^hen he was knocked out by the 
civil service humbug he got to hate his coun- 
try and became an Anarchist. 

"This ain't no exaggeration. I have good 
reason for sayin' that most of the Anarchists 
in this city to-day are men who ran up 
against civil service examinations. Is n't it 
enough to make a man sour on his country 
when he wants to serve it and won't be al- 
lowed unless he answers a lot of fool ques- 
tions about the number of cubic inches of 
water in the Atlantic and the quality of sand 
in the Sahara desert ? There was once a 
bright young man in my district who tackled 



one of these examinations. The next I heard 
of him he had settled down in Herr Most's 
saloon smokin' and drinkin' beer and talkin' 
socialism all day. Before that time he had 
never drank anything but whisky. I knew 
what was comin' when a young Irishman 
drops whisky and takes to beer and long 
pipes in a German saloon. That young man 
is to-day one of the wildest Anarchists in 
town. And just to think! He might be a pa- 
triot but for that cussed civil service. 

"Say, did you hear about that Civil Ser- 
vice Reform Association kickin' because the 
tax commissioners want to put their fifty- 
five deputies on the exempt list, and fire the 
outfit left to them by Low ? That 's civil ser- 
vice for you. Just think! Fifty-five Republi- 
cans and mugwumps holdin' $3000 and 
$4000 and $5000 jobs in the tax department 
when 1555 good Tammany men are ready 
and willin' to take their places ! It 's an out- 



rage! What did the people mean when they 
voted for Tammany. What is representative 
government, anyhow ? Is it all a fake that 
this is a government of the people, by the 
people and for the people ? If it is n't a fake, 
then why is n't the people's voice obeyed and 
Tammany men put in all the offices ? 

**When the people elected Tammany, 
they knew just what they were doin'. We 
did n't put up any false pretences. We did n't 
go in for humbug civil service and all that 
rot. We stood as we have always stood, for re- 
wardin' the men that won the victory. They 
call that the spoils system. All right; Tam- 
many is for the spoils system, and when we 
go in we fire every anti-Tammany man from 
office that can be fired under the law. It 's an 
elastic sort of law and you can bet it will be 
stretched to the limit. Of course the Repub- 
lican State Civil Service Board will stand in 
the way of our local Civil Service Commis- 



sion all it can; but say! — suppose we carry 
the State some time won't we fire the up- 
State Board all right ? Or we'll make it work 
in harmony with the local board, and that 
means that Tammany will get everything in 
sight. I know that the civil service humbug is 
stuck into the constitution, too, but, as Tim 
Campbell said : ' What 's the constitution 
among friends ? ' 

"Say, the people's voice is smothered by 
the cursed civil service law; it is the root of 
all evil in our government. You hear of this 
thing or that thing goin' wrong in the nation, 
the State or the city. Look down beneath the 
surface and you can trace everything wrong 
to civil service. I have studied the subject 
and I know. The civil service humbug is 
underminin' our institutions and if a halt 
ain't called soon this great republic will 
tumble down like a Park-avenue house 
when they were buildin' the subway, and 



on its ruins will rise another Russian gov- 

"This is an awful serious proposition. 
Free silver and the tariff and imperialism 
and the Panama Canal are triflin' issues 
when compared to it. We could worry along 
without any of these things, but civil service 
is sappin' the foundation of the whole shoot- 
in' match. Let me argue it out for you. I ain't 
up on sillygisms, but I can give you some ar- 
guments that nobody can answer. 

" First this great and glorious country was 
built up by political parties; second, parties 
can't hold together if their workers don't get 
the offices when they win; third, if the par- 
ties go to pieces, the government they built 
up must go to pieces, too; fourth, then 
there '11 be h — to pay. 

"Could anything be clearer than that.f^ 
Say, honest now; can you answer that argu- 
ment.'^ Of course you won't deny that the 



government was built up by the great par- 
ties. That 's history, and you can't go back 
of the returns. As to my second proposition, 
you can't deny that either. When parties 
can't get offices, they '11 bust. They ain't far 
from the bustin' point now, with all this civil 
service business keepin' most of the good 
things from them. How are you goin' to keep 
up patriotism if this thing goes on ? You can't 
do it. Let me tell you that patriotism has 
been dying out fast for the last twenty years. 
Before then when a party won, its workers 
got everything in sight. That was somethin' 
to make a man patriotic. Now, when a party 
wins and its men come forward and ask for 
their reward, the reply is, 'Nothin' doin', un- 
less you can answer a list of questions about 
Egyptian mummies and how many years it 
will take for a bird to wear out a mass of iron 
as big as the earth by steppin' on it once in a 
century ? ' 



*' I have studied politics and men for forty- 
five years, and I see how things are driftin'. 
Sad indeed is the change that has come over 
the young men, even in my district, where I 
try to keep up the fire of patriotism by get- 
tin' a lot of jobs for my constituents, whether 
Tammany is in or out. The boys and men 
don't get excited any more when they see a 
United States flag or hear the * Star Spangled 
Banner.' They don't care no more for fire- 
crackers on the Fourth of July. And why 
should they.^ What is there in it for them.^ 
They know that no matter how hard they 
work for their country in a campaign, the 
jobs will go to fellows who can tell about the 
mummies and the bird steppin' on the iron. 
Are you surprised then that the young men 
of the country are beginnin' to look coldly 
on the flag and don't care to put up a nickel 
for fire-crackers ? 

" Say, let me tell of one case. After the bat- 

[26 1 


tie of San Juan HiU, the Americans found a 
dead man with a Hght complexion, red hair 
and blue eyes. They could see he was n't a 
Spaniard, although he had on a Spanish uni- 
form. Several officers looked him over, and 
then a private of the Seventy-first Regiment 
saw him and yelled, ' Good Lord, that 's 
Flaherty.' That man grew up in my district, 
and he was once the most patriotic American 
boy on the West Side. He could n't see a 
flag without yellin' himself hoarse. 

*' Now, how did he come to be lying dead 
with a Spanish uniform on ? I found out all 
about it, and I '11 vouch for the story. Well, 
in the municipal campaign of 1897, that 
young man, chockful of patriotism, worked 
day and night for the Tammany ticket. 
Tammany won, and the young man deter- 
mined to devote his life to the service of the 
city. He picked out a place that would suit 
him, and sent in his application to the head 



of department. He got a reply that he must 
take a civil service examination to get the 
place. He did n't know what these examina- 
tions were, so he w^ent, all light-hearted, to 
the Civil Service Board. He read the ques- 
tions about the mummies, the bird on the 
iron, and all the other fool questions — and 
he left that office an enemy of the country 
that he had loved so well. The mummies 
and the bird blasted his patriotism. He went 
to Cuba, enlisted in the Spanish army at the 
breakin' out of the war, and died fightin' his 

"That is but one victim of the infamous 
civil service. If that young man had not run 
up against the civil examination, but had 
been allowed to serve his country as he 
wished, he would be in a good office to-day, 
drawin' a good salary. Ah, how many young 
men have had their patriotism blasted in the 

same way! 


" Now, what is goin' to happen when civil 
service crushes out patriotism? Only one 
thing can happen — the republic will go to 
pieces. Then a czar or a sultan will turn up, 
which brings me to the fourthly of my argu- 
ment; that is, there will be h — to pay. And 
that ain't no lie." 



V/OLLEGE professors and philosophers 
who go up in a balloon to think are always 
discussin' the question: 'Why Reform Ad- 
ministrations Never Succeed Themselves!' 
The reason is plain to anybody who has 
learned the a, b, c of politics. 

**I can't tell just how many of these move- 
ments I 've seen started in New York during 
my forty years in politics, but I can tell you 
how many have lasted more than a few 
years — none. There have been reform com- 
mittees of fifty, of sixty, of seventy, of one 
hundred and all sorts of numbers that 
started out to do up the regular political or- 
ganizations. They were mornin' glories — 



looked lovely in the mornin' and withered up 
in a short time, while the regular machines 
went on flourishin' forever, like fine old 
oaks. Say, that 's the first poetry I ever 
worked off. Ain't it great ? 

"Just look back a few years. You remem- 
ber the People's Municipal League that 
nominated Frank Scott for mayor in 1890 ? 
Do you remember the reformers that got up 
that league.^ Have you ever heard of them 
since ? I have n't. Scott himself survived be- 
cause he had always been a first-rate politi- 
cian, but you 'd have to look in the newspa- 
per almanacs of 1891 to find out who made 
up the People's Municipal League. Oh, yes ! 
I remember one name — Ollie Teall ; dear, 
pretty Ollie and his big dog. They 're about 
all that 's left of the League. 

"Now take the reform movement of 1894. 
A lot of good politicians joined in that — 
the Republicans, the State Democrats, the 



Stecklerites and the O'Brienites, and they 
gave us a Hckin', but the real reform part of 
the affair, the Committee of Seventy that 
started the thing goin', what 's become of 
those reformers ? What 's become of Charles 
Stewart Smith ? Where 's Bangs ? Do you 
ever hear of Cornell, the iron man, in politics 
now? Could a search party find R. W. G. 
Welling ? Have you seen the name of Fulton 
McMahon or McMahon Fulton — I ain't 
sure which — in the papers lately ? Or Pre- 
ble Tucker ? Or — but it 's no use to go 
through the list of the reformers who said 
they sounded in the death knell of Tammany 
in 1894. They 're gone for good, and Tam- 
many 's pretty well, thank you. They did the 
talkin' and posin', and the politicians in the 
movement got all the plums. It 's always the 

"The Citizens' Union has lasted a little 
bit longer than the reform crowd that went 


before them, but that 's because they learned 
a thing or two from us. They learned how to 
put up a pretty good bluff — and bluff 
counts a lot in politics. With only a few thou- 
sand members, they had the nerve to run the 
whole Fusion movement, make the Republi- 
cans and other organizations come to their 
headquarters to select a ticket and dictate 
what every candidate must do or not do. I 
love nerve, and I 've had a sort of respect for 
the Citizens' Union lately, but the Union 
can't last. Its people have n't been trained to 
politics, and whenever Tammany calls their 
bluff they lay right down. You '11 never hear 
of the Union again after a year or two. 

"And, by the way, what 's become of the 
good government clubs, the political nurs- 
eries of a few years ago ? Do you ever hear of 
Good Government Club D and P and Q and 
Z any more ? What 's become of the infants 
who were to grow up and show us how to 



govern the city ? I know what 's become of 
the nursery that was started in my district. 
You can find pretty much the whole outfit 
over in my headquarters, Washington Hall. 

"The fact is that a reformer can't last in 
politics. He can make a show for a while, but 
he always comes down like a rocket. Politics 
is as much a regular business as the grocery 
or the dry-goods or the drug business. 
You 've got to be trained up to it or you 're 
sure to fall. Suppose a man who knew noth- 
ing about the grocery trade suddenly went 
into the business and tried to conduct it ac- 
cording to his own ideas. Would n't he make 
a mess of it ? He might make a splurge for a 
while, as long as his money lasted, but his 
store would soon be empty. It 's just the 
same with a reformer. He has n't been 
brought up in the difficult business of poli- 
tics and he makes a mess of it every time. 

"I 've been studyin' the political game for 



forty-five years, and I don't know it all yet. 
I 'm learnin' somethin' all the time. How, 
then, can you expect what they call * business 
men' to turn into politics all at once and 
make a success of it ? It is just as if I went 
up to Columbia University and started to 
teach Greek. They usually last about as long 
in politics as I would last at Columbia. 

"You can't begin too early in politics if 
you want to succeed at the game. I began 
several years before I could vote, and so did 
every successful leader in Tammany Hall. 
When I was twelve years old I made myself 
useful around the district headquarters and 
did work at all the polls on election day. 
Later on, I hustled about gettin' out voters 
who had jags on or who were too lazy to 
come to the polls. There 's a hundred ways 
that boys can help, and they get an experi- 
ence that 's the first real step in statesman- 
ship. Show me a boy that hustles for the or- 



ganization on election day, and I '11 show 
you a comin' statesman. 

"That 's the a b c of politics. It ain't easy 
work to get up to y and z. You have to give 
nearly all your time and attention to it. Of 
course, you may have some business or occu- 
pation on the side, but the great business of 
your life must be politics if you want to suc- 
ceed in it. A few years ago Tammany tried to 
mix politics and business in equal quantities, 
by havin' two leaders for each district, a 
politician and a business man. They 
would n't mix. They were like oil and water. 
The politician looked after the politics of his 
district; the business man looked after his 
grocery store or his milk route, and when- 
ever he appeared at an executive meeting, it 
was only to make trouble. The whole scheme 
turned out to be a farce and was abandoned 
mighty quick. 

"Do you understand now, why it is that a 


reformer goes down and out in the first or 
second round, while a poHtician answers to 
the gong every time ? It is because the one 
has gone into the fight without trainin', 
while the other trains all the time and knows 
every fine point of the game." 



1 HIS city is ruled entirely by the hayseed 
legislators at Albany. I 've never known an 
up-State Republican who did n't want to 
run things here, and I 've met many thou- 
sands of them in my long service in the Legis- 
lature. The hayseeds think we are like the 
Indians to the National Government — that 
is, sort of wards of the State, who don't know 
how to look after ourselves and have to be 
taken care of by the Republicans of St. Law- 
rence, Ontario, and other backwoods coun- 
ties. Why should anybody be surprised be- 
cause ex-Governor Odell comes down here 
to direct the Republican machine ? New- 
burg ain't big enough for him. He, like all 



the other up-State Republicans, wants to get 
hold of New York City. New York is 
their pie. 

" Say, you hear a lot about the downtrod- 
den people of Ireland and the Russian peas- 
ants and the sufferin' Boers. Now, let me tell 
you that they have more real freedom and 
home rule than the people of this grand and 
imperial city. In England, for example, they 
make a pretense of givin' the Irish some self- 
government. In this State the Republi- 
can government makes no pretense at all. 
It says right out in the open: 'New York 
City is a nice big fat Goose. Come along 
with your carvin' knives and have a slice.' 
They don't pretend to ask the Goose's 

" We don't own our streets or our docks or 
our water front or anything else. The Repub- 
lican Legislature and Governor run the 
whole shootin'-match. We 've got to eat and 



drink what they tell us to eat and drink, and 
have got to choose our time for eatin' and 
drinkin' to suit them. If they don't feel like 
takin' a glass of beer on Sunday, we must ab- 
stain. If they have not got any amusements 
up in their backwoods, we must n't have 
none. We 've got to regulate our whole lives 
to suit them. And then we have to pay their 
taxes to boot. 

*' Did you ever go up to Albany from this 
city with a delegation that wanted anything 
from the Legislature ? No ? Well, don't. The 
hayseeds who run all the committees will 
look at you as if you were a child that did n't 
know what it wanted, and will tell you in so 
many words to go home and be good and the 
Legislature will give you whatever it thinks 
is good for you. They put on a sort of pa- 
tronizing air, as much as to say, * These chil- 
dren are an awful lot of trouble. They 're 
wantin' candy all the time, and they know 



that it will make them sick. They ought to 
thank goodness that they have us to take 
care of them.' And if you try to argue with 
them, they '11 smile in a pityin' sort of way as 
if they were humorin' a spoiled child. 

"But just let a Republican farmer from 
Chemung or Wayne or Tioga turn up at the 
Capital. The Republican Legislature will 
make a rush for him and ask him what he 
wants and tell him if he does n't see what he 
wants to ask for it. If he says his taxes are too 
high, they reply to him : *A11 right, old man, 
don't let that worry you. How much do you 
want us to take off ? ' 

" ' I guess about fifty per cent will about do 
for the present,' says the man, ' Can you fix 
me up .'^ ' 

"*Sure,' the Legislature agrees. *Give us 
somethin' harder, don't be bashful. We '11 
take off sixty per cent if you wish. That 's 
what we 're here for.' 



"Then the Legislature goes and passes a 
law increasin' the liquor tax or some other 
tax in New York City, takes a half of the pro- 
ceeds for the State Treasury and cuts down 
the farmers' taxes to suit. It 's as easy as rollin' 
off a log — when you 've got a good workin' 
majority and no conscience to speak of. 

"Let me give you another example. It 
makes me hot under the collar to tell about 
this. Last year some hayseeds along the 
Hudson River, mostly in Odell's neighbor- 
hood, got dissatisfied with the docks where 
they landed their vegetables, brickbats, and 
other things they produce in the river coun- 
ties. They got together and said : 'Let 's take 
a trip down to New York and pick out the 
finest dock we can find. Odell and the Legis- 
lature will do the rest.' They did come down 
here, and what do you think they hit on ? 
The finest dock in my district. Invaded 
George W. Plunkitt's district without sayin' 



as much as 'by your leave.' Then they called 
on Odell to put through a bill givin' them 
this dock, and he did. 

*' When the bill came before Mayor Low I 
made the greatest speech of my life. I point- 
ed out how the Legislature could give the 
whole water front to the hayseeds over the 
head of the Dock Commissioner in the same 
way, and warned the Mayor that nations 
had rebelled against their governments for 
less. But it was no go. Odell and Low were 
pards and — well, my dock was stolen. 

**You heard a lot in the State campaign 
about OdelFs great work in reducin' the 
State tax to almost nothin', and you '11 hear 
a lot more about it in the campaign next 
year. How did he do it ? By cuttin' down the 
expenses of the State Government ? Oh, no ! 
The expenses went up. He simply performed 
the old Republican act of milkin* New York 
City. The only difference was that he nearly 

[ 43 ] 

milked the city dry. He not only ran up the 
liquor tax, but put all sorts of taxes on cor- 
porations, banks, insurance companies, and 
everything in sight that could be made to 
give up. Of course, nearly the whole tax fell 
on the city. Then Odell went through the 
country districts and said : ' See what I have 
done for you. You ain't got any more taxes to 
pay the State. Ain't I a fine feller.^' 

"Once a farmer in Orange County asked 
him : * How did you do it, Ben ? ' 

***Dead easy," he answered. 'Whenever I 
want any money for the State Treasury, I 
know where to get it,' and he pointed toward 
New York City. 

"And then all the Republican tinkerin' 
with New York City's charter. Nobody can 
keep up with it. When a Republican mayor 
is in, they give him all sorts of power. If a 
Tammany mayor is elected next fall I 
would n't be surprised if they changed the 


whole business and arranged it so that every 
city department should have four heads, two 
of them Republicans. If we made a kick, 
they would say: *You don't know what's 
good for you. Leave it to us. It 's our bus- 




1 HERE 'S only one way to hold a dis- 
trict; you must study human nature and act 
accordin'. You can't study human nature in 
books. Books is a hindrance more than any- 
thing else. If you have been to college, so 
much the worse for you. You '11 have to un- 
learn all you learned before you can get right 
down to human nature, and unlearnin' takes 
a lot of time. Some men can never forget 
what they learned at college. Such men may 
get to be district leaders by a fluke, but they 
never last. 

"To learn real human nature you have to 
go among the people, see them and be seen. 
I know every man, woman, and child in the 


Fifteenth District, except them that 's been 
born this summer — and I know some of 
them, too. I know what they hke and what 
they don't Hke, what they are strong at and 
what they are weak in, and I reach them by 
approachin' at the right side. 

"For instance, here 's how I gather in the 
young men. I hear of a young feller that 's 
proud of his voice, thinks that he can sing 
fine. I ask him to come around to Washing- 
ton Hall and join our Glee Club. He comes 
and sings, and he 's a follower of Plunkitt 
for life. Another young feller gains a reputa- 
tion as a base-ball player in a vacant lot. I 
bring him into our base-ball club. That fixes 
him. You '11 find him workin' for my ticket 
at the polls next election day. Then there 's 
the feller that likes rowin' on the river, the 
young feller that makes a name as a waltzer 
on his block, the young feller that 's handy 
with his dukes — I rope them all in by givin* 



them opportunities to show themselves off. I 
don't trouble them with political arguments. 
I just study human nature and act accordin'. 

"But you may say this game won't work 
with the high-toned fellers, the fellers that go 
through college and then join the Citizens' 
Union. Of course it would n't work. I have a 
special treatment for them. I ain't like the 
patent medicine man that gives the same 
medicine for all diseases. The Citizens' 
Union kind of a young man! I love him! 
He 's the daintiest morsel of the lot, and he 
don't often escape me. 

"Before telling you how I catch him, let 
me mention that before the election last year, 
the Citizens' Union said they had four hun- 
dred or five hundred enrolled voters in my 
district. They had a lovely headquarters, 
too, beautiful roll-top desks and the cutest 
rugs in the v/orld. If I was accused of havin' 
contributed to fix up the nest for them, I 



would n't deny it under oath. What do I 
mean by that ? Never mind. You can guess 
from the sequel, if you 're sharp. 

"Well, election day came. The Citizens' 
Union's candidate for Senator, who ran 
against me, just polled five votes in the dis- 
trict, while I polled something more than 
14,000 votes. What became of the 400 or 
500 Citizens' Union enrolled voters in my 
district ? Some people guessed that many of 
them were good Plunkitt men all along and 
worked with the Cits just to bring them into 
the Plunkitt camp by election day. You can 
guess that way, too, if you want to. I never 
contradict stories about me, especially in hot 
weather. I just call your attention to the fact 
that on last election day 395 Citizens' Union 
enrolled voters in my district were missin' 
and unaccounted for. 

"I tell you frankly, though, how I have 
captured some of the Citizens' Union's 


young men. I have a plan that never fails. I 
watch the City Record to see when there 's 
civil service examinations for good things. 
Then I take my young Cit in hand, tell him 
all about the good thing and get him worked 
up till he goes and takes an examination. I 
don't bother about him any more. It 's a 
cinch that he comes back to me in a few days 
and asks to join Tammany Hall. Come over 
to Washington Hall some night and I '11 
show you a list of names on our rolls marked 
'C. S.' which means, 'bucked up against 
civil service.' 

"As to the older voters, I reach them, too. 
No, I don't send them campaign literature. 
That 's rot. People can get all the political 
stuff they want to read — and a good deal 
more, too — in the papers. Who reads 
speeches, nowadays, anyhow ? It 's bad 
enough to listen to them. You ain't goin' to 
gain any votes by stuffin' the letter boxes 



with campaign documents. Like as not 
you '11 lose votes, for there 's nothin' a man 
hates more than to hear the letter-carrier 
ring his bell and go to the letter-box expect- 
in' to find a letter he was lookin' for, and find 
only a lot of printed politics. I met a man this 
very mornin' who told me he voted the Dem- 
ocratic State ticket last year just because the 
Republicans kept crammin' his letter-box 
with campaign documents. 

"What tells in holdin' your grip on your 
district is to go right down among the poor 
families and help them in the different ways 
they need help. I 've got a regular system for 
this. If there 's a fire in Ninth, Tenth, or 
Eleventh Avenue, for example, any hour of 
the day or night, I 'm usually there with 
some of my election district captains as soon 
as the fire-engines. If a family is burned out 
I don't ask whether they are Republicans or 
Democrats, and I don't refer them to the 


Charity Organization Society, which would 
investigate their case in a month or two and 
decide they were worthy of help about the 
time they are dead from starvation. I just get 
quarters for them, buy clothes for them if 
their clothes were burned up, and fix them 
up till they get things runnin' again. It 's 
philanthropy, but it 's politics, too — mighty 
good politics. Who can tell how many votes 
one of these fires bring me ? The poor are 
the most grateful people in the world, and, let 
me tell you, they have more friends in their 
neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs. 
" If there 's a family in my district in want 
I know it before the charitable societies do, 
and me and my men are first on the ground. 
I have a special corps to look up such cases- 
The consequence is that the poor look up to 
George W. Plunkitt as a father, come to him 
in trouble — and don't forget him on elec- 
tion day. 



"Another thing, I can always get a job for 
a deservin' man. I make it a point to keep on 
the track of jobs, and it seldom happens that 
I don't have a few up my sleeve ready for 
use. I know every big employer in the dis- 
trict and in the whole city, for that matter, 
and they ain't in the habit of sayin' no to me 
when I ask them for a job. 

"And the children — the little roses of the 
district ! Do I forget them ? Oh, no ! They 
know me, every one of them, and they know 
that a sight of Uncle George and candy 
means the same thing. Some of them are the 
best kind of vote-getters. I '11 tell you a case. 
Last year a little Eleventh Avenue rosebud 
whose father is a Republican, caught hold of 
his whiskers on election day and said she 
would n't let go till he 'd promise to vote for 
me. And she did n't. 


ON "the shame of the cities" 

1 'VE been readin* a book by Lincoln 
StefFens on* The Shame of the Cities.' Steff- 
ens means well but, like all reformers, he don't 
know how to make distinctions. He can't see 
no difference between honest graft and dis- 
honest graft and, consequent, he gets things 
all mixed up. There 's the biggest kind of a 
difference between political looters and poli- 
ticians who make a fortune out of politics by 
keepin' their eyes wide open. The looter goes 
in for himself alone without considerin' his 
organization or his city. The politician looks 
after his own interests, the organization's in- 
terests, and the city's interests all at the same 
time. See the distinction ? For instance, I 

[54 1 


ain't no looter. The looter hogs it. I never 
hogged. I made my pile in politics, but, at 
the same time, I served the organization and 
got more big improvements for New York 
City than any other livin' man. And I never 
monkeyed with the penal code. 

"The difference between a looter and a 
practical politician is the difference between 
the Philadelphia Republican gang and Tam- 
many Hall. Steffens seems to think they 're 
both about the same; but he 's all wrong. 
The Philadelphia crowd runs up against the 
penal code. Tammany don't. The Philadel- 
phians ain't satisfied with robbin' the bank 
of all its gold and paper money. They stay to 
pick up the nickels and pennies and the cop 
comes and nabs them. Tammany ain't no 
such fool. Why, I remember, about fifteen or 
twenty years ago, a Republican superin- 
tendent of the Philadelphia almshouse stole 
the zinc roof off the buildin' and sold it for 



junk. That was canyin' things to excess. 
There 's a Hmit to everything, and the Phila- 
delphia Republicans go beyond the limit. It 
seems like they can't be cool and moderate 
like real politicians. It ain't fair, therefore, 
to class Tammany men with the Philadel- 
phia gang. Any man who undertakes to 
write political books should never for a mo- 
ment lose sight of the distinction between 
honest graft and dishonest graft, which I ex- 
plained in full in another talk. If he puts all 
kinds of graft on the same level, he '11 make 
the fatal mistake that Steffens made and 
spoil his book. 

" A big city like New York or Philadelphia 
or Chicago might be compared to a sort of 
Garden of Eden, from a pohtical point of 
view. It 's an orchard full of beautiful ap- 
ple-trees. One of them has got a big sign on 
it, marked: * Penal Code Tree — Poison.' 
The other trees have lots of apples on them 



for all. Yet, the fools go to the Penal Code 
Tree. Why ? For the reason, I guess, that a 
cranky child refuses to eat good food and 
chews up a box of matches with relish. I 
never had any temptation to touch the Penal 
Code Tree. The other apples are good 
enough for me, and O Lord! how many of 
them there are in a big city! 

"Steffens made one good point in his 
book. He said he found that Philadelphia, 
ruled almost entirely by Americans, was 
more corrupt than New York, where the 
Irish do almost all the governin'. I could 
have told him that before he did any investi- 
gatin' if he had come to me. The Irish was 
born to rule, and they 're the honestest peo- 
ple in the world. Show me the Irishman who 
would steal a roof off an almshouse ! He don't 
exist. Of course, if an Irishman had the polit- 
ical pull and the roof was much worn, he 
might get the city authorities to put on a new 



one and get the contract for it himself, and 
buy the old roof at a bargain — but that 's 
honest graft. It 's goin' about the thing like a 
gentleman — and there 's more money in it 
than in tearin' down an old roof and cartin' 
it to the junkman's — more money and no 
penal code. 

"One reason why the Irishman is more 
honest in politics than many Sons of the 
Revolution is that he is grateful to the coun- 
try and the city that gave him protection and 
prosperity when he was driven by oppres- 
sion from the Emerald Isle. Say, that sen- 
tence is fine, ain't it ? I 'm goin' to get some 
literary feller to work it over into poetry for 
next St. Patrick's Day dinner. 

"Yes, the Irishman is grateful. His one 
thought is to serve the city which gave him a 
home. He has this thought even before he 
lands in New York, for his friends here often 
have a good place in one of the city depart- 



merits picked out for him while he is still in 
the old country. Is it any wonder that he has 
a tender spot in his heart for old New York 
when he is on its salary list the mornin' after 
he lands ? 

"Now, a few words on the general subject 
of the so-called shame of cities. I don't be- 
lieve that the government of our cities is any 
worse, in proportion to opportunities, than it 
was fifty years ago. I '11 explain what I mean 
by 'in proportion to opportunities.' A half 
a century ago, our cities were small and poor. 
There was n't many temptations lyin' 
around for politicians. There was hardly 
anything to steal, and hardly any opportu- 
nities for even honest graft. A city could 
count its money every night before goin' to 
bed, and if three cents was missin', all the 
fire-bells Would be rung. What credit was 
there in bein' honest under them circum- 
stances ? It makes me tired to hear of old 



codgers back in the thirties or forties boast- 
in' that they retired from pohtics without a 
dollar except what they earned in their pro- 
fession or business. If they lived to-day, with 
all the existin' opportunities, they would be 
just the same as twentieth century politi- 
cians. There ain't any more honest people in 
the world just now than the convicts in Sing 
Sing. Not one of them steals anything. Why ? 
Because they can't. See the application ? 

"Understand, I ain't defendin' politicians 
of to-day who steal. The politician who 
steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. 
With the grand opportunities all around for 
the man with a political pull, there 's no ex- 
cuse for stealin' a cent. The point I want to 
make is that if there is some stealin' in poli- 
tics, it don't mean that the politicians of 1905 
are, as a class, worse than them of 1835. It 
just means that the old-timers had nothin' to 
steal, while the politicians now are surround- 



ed by all kinds of temptations and some of 
them naturally — the fool ones — buck up 
against the penal code." 



1 HERE 'S no crime so mean as ingrati- 
tude in politics, but every great statesman 
from the beginnin' of the world has been up 
against it. Caesar had his Brutus; that king 
of Shakspere's — Leary, I think you call 
him — had his own daughters go back on 
him; Piatt had his Odell, and I 've got my 
'The' McManus. It 's a real proof that a 
man is great when he meets with political in- 
gratitude. Great men have a tender, trustin' 
nature. So have I — outside of the contract- 
in' and real estate business. In politics I 
have trusted men who have told me they 
were my friends, and if traitors have turned 
up in my camp — well, I only had the same 



experience as Caesar, Leary, and the others. 
About my Brutus. McManus, you know, 
has seven brothers and they call him 'The' 
because he is the boss of the lot, and to dis- 
tinguish him from all other McManuses. 
For several years he was a political bush- 
whacker. In campaigns he was sometimes on 
the fence, sometimes on both sides of the 
fence, and sometimes under the fence. No- 
body knew where to find him at any par- 
ticular time, and nobody trusted him — that 
is, nobody but me. I thought there was some 
good in him after all and that, if I took him 
in hand, I could make a man of him yet. 

"I did take him in hand, a few years ago. 
My friends told me it would be the Brutus- 
Leary business all over again, but I did n't 
believe them. I put my trust in *The.' I nom- 
inated him for the Assembly, and he was 
elected. A year afterwards, when I was run- 
nin' for re-election as Senator, I nominated 



him for the Assembly again on the ticket 
with me. What do you think happened ? We 
both carried the Fifteenth Assembly Dis- 
trict, but he ran away ahead of me. 
Just think! Ahead of me in my own 
district! I was just dazed. When I began 
to recover, my election district captains 
came to me and said that McManus had 
sold me out with the idea of knockin' me 
out of the Senatorship, and then tryin' to 
capture the leadership of the district. I 
could n't believe it. My trustin* nature 
could n't imagine such treachery. 

"I sent for McManus and said, with my 
voice tremblin' with emotions: *They say 
you have done me dirt, *The.' It can't be 
true. Tell me it ain't true.' 

"*The' almost wept as he said he was 

" * Never have I done you dirt, George,' he 
declared. 'Wicked traitors have tried to do 



you. I don't know just who they are yet, but 
I 'm on their trail, and I '11 find them or ab- 
jure the name of *The' McManus. I 'm 
goin' out right now to find them.' 

"Well, *The' kept his word as far as goin' 
out and findin' the traitors was concerned. 
He found them all right — and put himself 
at their head. Oh, no! He did n't have to go 
far to look for them. He 's got them gathered 
in his club-rooms now, and he 's doin' his 
best to take the leadership from the man that 
made him. So you see that Caesar and Leary 
and me 's in the same boat, only I '11 come 
out on top while Caesar and Leary went 

"Now let me tell you that the ingrate in 
politics never flourishes long. I can give you 
lots of examples. Look at the men who done 
up Roscoe Conkling when he resigned from 
the United States Senate and went to Albany 
to ask for a re-election ! What 's become of 


them ? Passed from view like a movin' pic- 
ture. Who took Conkling's place in the Sen- 
ate ? Twenty dollars even that you can't re- 
member his name without looking in the al- 
manac. And poor old Piatt! He 's dow^n and 
out now and Odell is in the saddle, but that 
don't mean that he '11 always be in the sad- 
dle. His enemies are workin' hard all the 
time to do him, and I would n't be a bit sur- 
prised if he went out before the next State 

"The politicians who make a lastin' suc- 
cess in politics are the men who are always 
loyal to their friends — even up to the gate 
of State prison, if necessary; men who keep 
their promises and never lie. Richard Croker 
used to say that tellin' the truth and stickin' 
to his friends was the political leader's stock 
in trade. Nobody ever said anything truer, 
and nobody lived up to it better than Croker. 
That is why he remained leader of Tam- 



many Hall as long as he wanted to. Every 
man in the organization trusted him. Some- 
times he made mistakes that hurt in cam- 
paigns, but they were always on the side of 
servin' his friends. 

**It 's the same with Charles F. Murphy. 
He has always stood by his friends even 
when it looked like he would be downed for 
doin' so. Remember how he stuck to Mc- 
Clellan in 1903 when all the Brooklyn lead- 
ers were against him, and it seemed as if 
Tammany was in for a grand smash-up! 
It 's men like Croker and Murphy that stay 
leaders as long as they live; not men like 
Brutus and McManus. 

"Now I want to tell you why political 
traitors, in New York City especially, are 
punished quick. It 's because the Irish are in 
a majority. The Irish, above all people in the 
world, hates a traitor. You can't hold them 
back when a traitor of any kind is in sight 



and, rememberin' old Ireland, they take par- 
ticular delight in doin' up a political traitor. 
Most of the voters in my district are Irish or 
of Irish descent ; they ' ve spotted * The ' Mc- 
Manus, and when they get a chance at him 
at the polls next time, they won't do a thing 
to him. 

"The question has been asked: is a poli- 
tician ever justified in goin' back on his dis- 
trict leader.^ I answer: 'No; as long as the 
leader hustles around and gets all the jobs 
possible for his constituents.' When the vot- 
ers elect a man leader, they make a sort of a 
contract with him. They say, although it 
ain't written out: 'We 've put you here to 
look out for our interests. You want to see 
that this district gets all the jobs that 's com- 
in' to it. Be faithful to us, and we '11 be faith- 
ful to you.' 

"The district leader promises and that 
makes a solemn contract. If he lives up to it; 



spends most of his time chasin' after places 
in the departments, picks up jobs from rail- 
roads and contractors for his followers, and 
shows himself in all ways a true statesman, 
then his followers are bound in honor to up- 
hold him, just as they 're bound to uphold 
the Constitution of the United States. But if 
he only looks after his own interests or shows 
no talent for scenting out jobs or ain't got the 
nerve to demand and get his share of the 
good things that are goin', his followers may 
be absolved from their allegiance and they 
may up and swat him without bein' put 
down as political ingrates." 



' 'Whenever Tammany is whipped at 
the polls, the people set to predictin' that the 
organization is goin' to smash. They say we 
can't get along without the oflBces and that 
the district leaders are goin' to desert whole- 
sale. That was what was said after the throw- 
downs in 1894 and 1901. But it didn't 
happen, did it ? Not one big Tammany man 
deserted, and to-day the organization is 
stronger than ever. 

*' How was that.^ It was because Tam- 
many has more than one string to its 

"I acknowledge that you can't keep an 
organization together without patronage. 



Men ain't in politics for nothin*. They want 
to get somethin' out of it. 

"But there is more than one kind of 
patronage. We lost the public kind, or a 
greater part of it in 1901, but Tammany 
has an immense private patronage that 
keeps things goin' when it gets a set back at 
the polls. 

" Take me, for instance. When Low came 
in, some of my men lost public jobs, but I 
fixed them all right. I don't know how many 
jobs I got for them on the surface and ele- 
vated railroads — several hundred. 

" I placed a lot more on public works done 
by contractors, and no Tammany man goes 
hungry in my district. Plunkitt 's O. K. on 
an application for a job is never turned 
down, for they all know that Plunkitt and 
Tammany don't stay out long. See! 

" Let me tell you, too, that I got jobs from 
Republicans in office — Federal and other- 



wise. When Tammany 's on top I do good 
turns for the RepiibHcans. When they 're on 
top they don't forget me. 

"Me and the RepubHcans are enemies 
just one day in the year — election day. 
Then we fight tooth and nail. The rest of the 
time it 's live and let live with us. 

" On election day I try to pile up as big a 
majority as I can against George Wan- 
maker, the Republican leader of the Fif- 
teenth. Any other day George and I are the 
best of friends. I can go to him and say: 
'George, I want you to place this friend of 
mine,' He says: *A11 right. Senator.' Or vice 

*' You see, we differ on tariffs and curren- 
cies and all them things, but we agree on the 
main proposition that when a man works in 
politics, he should get something out of it. 

"The politicians have got to stand to- 
gether this way or there would n't be any po- 



litical parties in a short time. Civil service 
would gobble up everything, politicians 
would be on the bum, the republic would fall 
and soon there would be the cry of: 'Vevey 
le roi ! ' 

"The very thought of this civil service 
monster makes my blood boil. I have said a 
lot about it already, but another instance of 
its awful work just occurs to me. 

" Let me tell you a sad but true story. Last 
Wednesday a line of carriages wound into 
Calvary Cemetery. I was in one of them. It 
was the funeral of a young man from my dis- 
trict — a bright boy that I had great hopes 

" When he went to school, he was the most 
patriotic boy in the district. Nobody could 
sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' like him, 
nobody was as fond of waving a flag, and no- 
body shot off as many fire- crackers on the 
Fourth of July. And when he grew up he 



made up his mind to serve his country in one 
of the city departments. There was no way 
of gettin' there without passin' a civil ser- 
vice examination. Well, he went down to the 
civil service office and tackled the fool ques- 
tions. I saw him next day — it was Memor- 
ial Day, and soldiers were marchin' and flags 
flyin' and people cheerin'. 

" Where was my young man ? Standin' on 
the corner, scowlin' at the whole show. 
When I asked him why he was so quiet, he 
laughed in a wild sort of way and said : 

"' What rot all this is ! ' 

"Just then a band came along playing 
* Liberty. ' 

"He laughed wild again and said: 'Lib- 
erty ? Rats ! ' 

" I don't guess 1 need to make a long story 
of it. 

"From the time that young man left the 
civil service office he lost all patriotism. He 



did n't care no more for his country. He 
went to the dogs. 

** He ain't the only one. There 's a grave- 
stone over some bright young man's head 
for every one of them infernal civil service 
examinations. They are underminin' the 
manhood of the nation and makin' the Dec- 
laration of Independence a farce. We need a 
new Declaration of Independence — inde- 
pendence of the whole fool civil service 

" I mention all this now to show why it is 
that the politicians of two big parties help 
each other along, and why Tammany men 
are tolerably happy when not in power in the 
city. When we win I won't let any deservin' 
Republican in my neighborhood suffer from 
hunger or thirst, although, of course, I look 
out for my own people first. 

"Now, I 've never gone in for non-parti- 
zan business, but I do think that all the lead- 



ers of the two parties should get together and 
make an open, non-partizan fight against 
civil service, their common enemy. They 
could keep up their quarrels about imperial- 
ism and free silver and high tariff. They 
don't count for much alongside of civil ser- 
vice, which strikes right at the root of the 

"The time is fast coming when civil ser- 
vice or the politicians will have to go. And it 
will be here sooner than they expect if the 
politicians don't unite, drop all them minor 
issues for a while and make a stand against 
the civil service flood that 's sweepin' over 
the country like them floods out West. " 



oOME people are wonderin' why it is 
that the Brooklyn Democrats have been 
sidin' with David B. Hill and the up-State 
crowd. There 's no cause for wonder. I have 
made a careful study of the Brooklynite, and 
I can tell you why. It 's because a Brook- 
lynite is a natural-born hayseed, and can 
never become a real New Yorker. He can't 
be trained into it. Consolidation did n't 
make him a New Yorker, and nothin' on 
earth can. A man born in Germany can 
settle down and become a good New Yorker. 
So can an Irishman ; in fact, the first word an 
Irish boy learns in the old country is *New 
York,' and when he grows up and comes 


here, he is at home right away. Even a Jap 
or a Chinaman can become a New Yorker, 
but a Brooklynite never can. 

"And why? Because Brooklyn don't 
seem to be Hke any other place on earth. 
Once let a man grow up amidst Brooklyn's 
cobblestones, with the odor of Newton 
Creek and Gowanus Canal ever in his nos- 
trils, and there 's no place in the world for 
him except Brooklyn. And even if he don't 
grow up there; if he is born there and lives 
there only in his boyhood and then moves 
away, he is still beyond redemption. In one 
of my speeches in the Legislature, I gave an 
example of this, and it 's worth repeatin' 
now. Soon after I became a leader on the 
West Side, a quarter of a century ago, I 
came across a bright boy, about seven years 
old, who had just been brought over from 
Brooklyn by his parents. I took an interest 
in the boy, and when he grew up I brought 



him into politics. Finally, I sent him to the 
Assembly from my district. Now remember 
that the boy was only seven years old when 
he left Brooklyn, and was twenty- three 
when he went to the Assembly. You 'd think 
he had forgotten all about Brooklyn, would- 
n't you ? I did, but I was dead wrong. 
When that young fellow got into the Assem- 
bly he paid no attention to bills or debates 
about New York City. He did n't even show 
any interest in his own district. But just let 
Brooklyn be mentioned, or a bill be intro- 
duced about Gowanus Canal, or the Long 
Island Railroad, and he was all attention. 
Nothin' else on earth interested him. 

"The end came when I caught him — 
what do you think I caught him at.? One 
mornin' I went over from the Senate to the 
Assembly chamber, and there I found my 
young man readin' — actually readin' a 
Brooklyn newspaper! When he saw me 



comin' he tried to hide the paper, but it was 
too late. I caught him dead to rights, and I 
said to him: * Jimmy, I 'm afraid New York 
ain't fascinatin' enough for you. You had 
better move back to Brooklyn after your 
present term.' And he did. I met him the 
other day crossin' the Brooklyn Bridge, 
carryin' a hobby-horse under one arm, and a 
doll's carriage under the other, and lookin' 
perfectly happy. 

"McCarren and his men are the same 
way. They can't get it into their heads that 
they are New Yorkers, and just tend natu- 
rally towards supportin' Hill and his hay- 
seeds against Murphy. I had some hopes of 
McCarren till lately. He spends so much 
of his time over here and has seen so much of 
the world that I thought he might be an ex- 
ception, and grow out of his Brooklyn sur- 
roundings, but his course at Albany shows 
that there is no exception to the rule. Say, 



I'd rather take a Hottentot in hand to bring 
up as a good New Yorker than undertake 
the job with a Brooklynite. Honest, I would. 
"And, by the way, come to think of it, is 
there really any up-State Democrats left ? It 
has never been proved to my satisfaction 
that there is any. I know that some up-State 
members of the State committee call them- 
selves Democrats. Besides these, I know at 
least six more men above the Bronx who 
make a livin' out of professin' to be Demo- 
crats, and I have just heard of some few 
more. But if there is any real Democrats up 
the State, what becomes of them on election 
day ? They certainly don't go near the polls 
or they vote the Republican ticket. Look at 
the last three State elections ! Roosevelt piled 
up more than 100,000 majority above the 
Bronx; Odell piled up about 160,000 ma- 
jority the first time he ran and 131,000 the 
second time. About all the Democratic votes 


cast were polled in New York City. The Re- 
publicans can get all the votes they want up 
the State. Even when we piled up 123,000 
majority for Coler in the city in 1902, the Re- 
publicans went it 8000 better above the 

'*That 's why it makes me mad to hear 
about up-State Democrats controUin' our 
State convention, and sayin' who we shall 
choose for President. It 's just like Staten 
Island undertakin' to dictate to a New York 
City convention. I remember once a Syracuse 
man came to Richard Croker at the Demo- 
cratic Club, handed him a letter of introduc- 
tion and said : ' I 'm lookin' for a job in the 
Street Cleanin' Department; I 'm backed by 
a hundred up-State Democrats.' Croker look- 
ed hard at the man a minute and then said : 
' Up-State Democrats ! Up-State Democrats ! 
I did n't know there was any up-State Dem- 
ocrats. Just walk up and down a while 



till I see what an up-State Democrat looks 
like. ' 

"Another thing. When a campaign is on, 
did you ever hear on an up-State Democrat 
makin' a contribution.? Not much. Tam- 
many has had to foot the whole bill, and 
when any of Hill's men came down to New 
York to help him in the campaign, we had to 
pay their board. Whenever money is to be 
raised, there 's nothin' doin' up the State. 
The Democrats there — always providin' 
that there is any Democrats there — take 
to the woods. Supposin' Tammany turned 
over the campaigns to the Hill men and 
then held off, what would happen.? Why, 
they would have to hire a shed out in the 
suburbs of Albany for a headquarters, unless 
the Democratic National Committee put up 
for the campaign expenses. Tammany's got 
the votes and the cash. The Hill crowd 's 
only got hot air. " 



1 OU hear a lot of talk about the Tam- 
many district leaders bein' illiterate men. If 
illiterate means havin' common sense, we 
plead guilty. But if they mean that the Tam- 
many leaders ain't got no education and ain't 
gents they don't know what they 're talkin' 
about. Of course, we ain't all bookworms 
and college professors. If we were, Tammany 
might win an election once in four thousand 
years. Most of the leaders are plain Ameri- 
can citizens, of the people and near to the 
people, and they have all the education they 
need to whip the dudes who part their name 
in the middle and to run the City Govern- 
ment. We 've got bookworms, too, in the 


organization. But we don't make them dis- 
trict leaders. We keep them for ornaments 
on parade days. 

"Tammany Hall is a great big machine, 
with ever part adjusted delicate to do its own 
particular work. It runs so smooth that you 
would n't think it was a complicated affair, 
but it is. Every district leader is fitted to the 
district he runs and he would n't exactly fit 
any other district. That 's the reason Tam- 
many never makes the mistake the Fusion 
outfit always makes of sendin' men into the 
districts who don't know the people, and 
have no sympathy with their peculiari- 
ties. We don't put a silk stockin' on the 
Bowery, nor do we make a man who is 
handy with his fists leader of the Twenty- 
ninth. The Fusionists make about the same 
sort of a mistake that a repeater made at an 
election in Albany several years ago. He was 
hired to go to the polls early in a half- 



dozen election districts and vote on other 
men's names before these men reached the 
polls. At one place, when he was asked his 
name by the poll clerk, he had the nerve to 
answer * William Croswell Doane. ' 

**'Come off. You ain't Bishop Doane,' 
said the poll clerk.' 

"*The hell I ain't, you ' yelled the 


"Now, that is the sort of bad judgment 
the Fusionists are guilty of. They don't pick 
men to suit the work they have to do. 

"Take me, for instance. My district, the 
Fifteenth, is made up of all sorts of people, 
and a cosmopolitan is needed to run it suc- 
cessful. I 'm a cosmopolitan. When I get into 
the silk-stockin' part of the district, I can 
talk grammar and all that with the best of 
them. I went to school three winters when I 
was a boy, and I learned a lot of fancy stuff 
that I keep for occasions. There ain't a silk 



stockin' in the district who ain't proud to be 
seen talkin' with George Washington Plun- 
kitt, and maybe they learn a thing or two 
from their talks with me. There 's one man 
in the district, a big banker, who said to me 
one day: 'George, you can sling the most 
vigorous English I ever heard. You remind 
me of Senator Hoar of Massachusetts.' Of 
course, that was puttin' it on too thick; but 
say, honest, I like Senator Hoar's speeches. 
He once quoted in the United States Senate 
some of my remarks on the curse of civil ser- 
vice, and, though he did n't agree with me 
altogether, I noticed that our ideas are alike 
in some things, and we both have the knack 
of puttin' things strong, only he put on more 
frills to suit his audience. 

** As for the common people of the district, 
I am at home with them at all times. When I 
go among them, I don't try to show off my 
grammar, or talk about the Constitution, 



or how many volts there is in electricity or 
make it appear in any way that I am better 
educated than they are. They would n't 
stand for that sort of thing. No ; I drop all 
monkey-shines. So you see, I 've got to be 
several sorts of a man in a single day, a light- 
nin' change artist, so to speak. But I am one 
sort of man always in one respect; I stick to 
my friends high and low, do them a good 
turn whenever I get a chance, and hunt up 
all the jobs going for my constituents. 
There ain't a man in New York who's got 
such a scent for political jobs as I have. 
When I get up in the mornin' I can al- 
most tell every time whether a job has 
become vacant over night, and what depart- 
ment it 's in and I 'm the first man on the 
ground to get it. Only last week I turned 
up at the office of Water Register Savage 
at 9 A. M. and told him I wanted a vacant 
place in his office for one of my con- 



stituents. *How did you know that O'Brien 
had got out?' he asked me. *I smelled 
it in the air when I got up this mornin',' 
I answered. Now, that was the fact. I 
did n't know there was a man in the de- 
partment named O'Brien, much less that 
he had got out, but my scent led me to the 
Water Register's office, and it don't often 
lead me wrong. 

"A cosmopolitan ain't needed in all the 
other districts, but our men are just the kind 
to rule. There 's Dan Finn, in the Battery 
district, bluff, jolly Dan, who is now on the 
bench. Maybe you 'd think that a court jus- 
tice is not the man to hold a district like that, 
but you 're mistaken. Most of the voters of 
the district are the janitors of the big office 
buildings on lower Broadway and their 
helpers. These janitors are the most digni- 
fied and haughtiest of men. Even I would 
have trouble in holding them. Nothin' less 



than a judge on the bench is good enough for 
them. Dan does the dignity act with the 
janitors, and when he is with the boys he 
hangs up the ermine in the closet and be- 
comes a jolly good fellow. 

*'Big Tom Foley, leader of the Second 
district, fits in exactly, too. Tom sells whis- 
ky, and good whisky, and he is able to take 
care of himself against a half dozen thugs if 
he runs up against them on Cherry Hill or in 
Chatham Square. Pat Ryder and Johnnie 
Ahearn of the Third and Fourth districts 
are just the men for the places. Ahearn's con- 
stituents are about half Irishmen and half 
Jews. He is as popular with one race as with 
the other. He eats corned beef and kosher 
meat with equal nonchalance, and it 's all 
the same to him whether he takes off his hat 
in the church or pulls it down over his ears in 
the synagogue. 

"The other downtown leaders, Barney 


Martin of the Fifth, Tim SuUivan of the 
Sixth, Pat Keahon of the Seventh, Florrie 
SulHvan of the Eighth, Frank Goodwin of 
the Ninth, Juhus Harburger of the Tenth, 
Pete DooUng of the Eleventh, Joe Scully of 
the Twelfth, Johnnie Oakley of the Four- 
teenth, and Pat Keenan of the Sixteenth are 
just built to suit the people they have to deal 
with. They don't go in for literary busi- 
ness much downtown, but these men are all 
real gents, and that 's what the people want 
— even the poorest tenement dwellers. As 
you go farther uptown you find rather dif- 
ferent kind of district leaders. There 's 
Victor Dowling who was until lately the 
leader of the Twenty-fourth. He 's a 
lulu. He knows the Latin grammar back- 
ward. What 's strange, he 's a sensible 
young fellow, too. About once in a century 
we come across a fellow like that in Tam- 
many politics. James J. Martin, leader of 



the Twenty-seventh, is also something of 
a hightoner, and pubHshes a law paper, 
while Thomas E. Rush, of the Twenty- 
ninth, is a lawyer, and Isaac Hopper, of the 
Thirty-first, is a big contractor. The down- 
town leaders would n't do uptown, and vice 
versa. So, you see, these fool critics don't 
know what they 're talkin' about when they 
criticise Tammany Hall, the most perfect 
political machine on earth." 



1 UTTIN' on style don't pay in politics. 
The people won't stand for it. If you 've got 
an achin' for style, sit down on it till you 
have made your pile and landed a Supreme 
Court Justiceship with a fourteen-year term 
at $17,500 a year, or some job of that kind. 
Then you 've got about all you can get out of 
politics, and you can afford to wear a dress- 
suit all day and sleep in it all night if you 
have a mind to. But, before you have caught 
onto your life meal-ticket, be simple. Live 
like your neighbors even if you have the 
means to live better. Make the poorest man 
in your district feel that he is your equal, or 
even a bit superior to you. 


"Above all things, avoid a dress-suit. You 
have no idea of the harm that dress-suits 
have done in politics. They are not so fatal 
to young politicians as civil service reform 
and drink, but they have scores of victims. I 
will mention one sad case. After the big 
Tammany victory in 1897, Richard Croker 
went down to Lakewood to make up the 
slate of offices for Mayor Van Wyck to dis- 
tribute. All the district leaders and many 
more Tammany men went down there, too, 
to pick up anything good that was goin'. 
There was nothin' but dress-suits at dinner 
at Lakewood, and Croker would n't let any 
Tammany men go to dinner without them. 
Well, a bright young West Side politician, 
who held a three thousand dollar job in one 
of the departments, went to Lakewood to 
ask Croker for something better. He wore a 
dress-suit for the first time in his life. It was 
his undoin'. He got stuck on himself. He 



thought he looked too beautiful for anything, 
and when he came home he was a changed 
man. As soon as he got to his house every 
evenin' he put on that dress-suit and set 
around in it until bedtime. That did n't sat- 
isfy him long. He wanted others to see how 
beautiful he was in a dress-suit; so he joined 
dancin' clubs and began goin' to all the balls 
that was given in town. Soon he began to 
neglect his family. Then he took to drinkin', 
and did n't pay any attention to his political 
work in the district. The end came in less 
than a year. He was dismissed from the de- 
partment and went to the dogs. The other 
day I met him rigged out almost like a hobo, 
but he still had a dress-suit vest on. When I 
asked him what he was doin', he said: 
"Nothin' at present, but I got a promise 
of a job enrollin' voters at Citizens' Union 
headquarters. " Yes, a dress-suit had 
brought him that low! 



" I '11 tell you another case right in my own 
x\ssembly District. A few years ago I had as 
one of my lieutenants a man named Zeke 
Thompson. He did fine work for me and I 
thought he had a bright future. One day he 
came to me, said he intended to buy an option 
on a house, and asked me to help him out. I 
like to see a young man acquirin' property 
and I had so much confidence in Zeke that I 
put up for him on the house. 

"A month or so afterwards I heard strange 
rumors. People told me that Zeke was be- 
ginnin' to put on style. They said he had a 
billiard-table in his house and had hired Jap 
servants. I could n't believe it. The idea of 
a Democrat, a follower of George Washing- 
ton Plunkitt in the Fifteenth Assembly Dis- 
trict havin' a billiard-table and Jap serv- 
ants! One mornin' I called at the house to 
give Zeke a chance to clear himself. A Jap 
opened the door for me. I saw the billiard- 



table. Zeke was guilty! When I got over the 
shock, I said to Zeke : * You are caught with 
the goods on. No excuses will go. The Demo- 
crats of this district ain't used to dukes and 
princes and we would n't feel comfortable in 
your company. You 'd overpower us. You 
had better move up to the Nineteenth or 
Twenty-seventh District, and hang a silk 
stocking on your door. ' He went up to the 
Nineteenth, turned Republican, and was 
lookin' for an Albany job the last I heard of 

*' Now, nobody ever saw me puttin' on any 
style. I 'm the same Plunkitt I was when I 
entered politics forty years ago. That is why 
the people of the district have confidence in 
me. If I went into the stylish business, even 
I, Plunkitt, might be thrown down in the 
district. That was shown pretty clearly in 
the senatorial fight last year. A day before 
the election, my enemies circulated a report 


that I had ordered a $10,000 automobile 
and a $125 dress-suit. I sent out contradic- 
tions as fast as I could, but I was n't able to 
stamp out the infamous slander before the 
votin' was over, and I suffered some at the 
polls. The people would n't have minded 
much if I had been accused of robbin' the 
city treasury, for they 're used to slanders of 
that kind in campaigns, but the automobile 
and the dress-suit were too much for them. 

"Another thing that people won't stand for 
is showin' off your learnin'. That 's just put- 
tin' on style in another way. If you 're makin' 
speeches in a campaign, talk the language 
the people talk. Don't try to show how the 
situation is by quotin' Shakspere. Shaks- 
pere was all right in his way, but he did n't 
know anything about Fifteenth District poli- 
tics. If you know Latin and Greek and have 
a hankerin' to work them off on somebody, 
hire a stranger to come to your house and 



listen to you for a couple of hours; then go 
out and talk the language of the Fifteenth to 
the people. I know it 's an awful temptation, 
the hankerin' to show off your learnin'. 
I 've felt it myself, but I always resist it. I 
know the awful consequences." 



1 AM for municipal ownership on one 
condition — that the civil service law be re- 
pealed. It 's a grand idea — the city ownin' 
the railroads, the gas works and all that. 
Just see how many thousands of new places 
there would be for the workers in Tammany ! 
Why, there would be almost enough to go 
around — if no civil service law stood in 
the way. My plan is this: first get rid of 
that infamous law, and then go ahead and 
by degrees get municipal ownership. 

" Some of the reformers are sayin* that 
municipal ownership won't do because it 
would give a lot of patronage to the politic- 
ians. How those fellows mix things up when 

[ 100 ] 


they argue! They 're givin' the strongest 
argument in favor of municipal ownership 
when they say that. Who is better fitted to 
run the railroads and the gas plants and the 
ferries than the men who make a business of 
lookin' after the interests of the city ? Who is 
more anxious to serve the city? Who needs 
the jobs more? 

" Look at the Dock Department! The city 
owns the docks, and how beautiful Tam- 
many manages them! I can't tell you how 
many places they provide for our workers. 
I know there is a lot of talk about dock 
graft, but that talk comes from the outs. 
When the Republicans had the docks 
under Low and Strong, you did n't hear 
them sayin' anything about graft, did 
you? No; they just went in and made 
hay while the sun shone. That 's always 
the case. When the reformers are out they 
raise the yell that Tammany men should 



be sent to jail. When they get in, they 're 
so busy keepin' out of jail themselves 
that they don't have no time to attack 

''AH I want is that municipal ownership be 
postponed till I get my bill repealin' the civil 
service law before the next legislature. It 
would be all a mess if every man who wanted 
a job would have to run up against a civil 
service examination. For instance, if a man 
wanted a job as motorman on a surface car, 
it 's ten to one that they would ask him: 
' Who wrote the Latin grammar, and, if so, 
why did he write it ? How many years were 
you at college ? Is there any part of the Greek 
language you don't know? State all you 
don't know, and why you don't know it. 
Give a list of all the sciences with full par- 
ticulars about each one and how it came to 
be discovered. Write out word for word the 
last ten decisions of the United States Su- 



preme Court and show if they conflict with 
the last ten decisions of the poHce courts of 
New York City. ' 

*' Before the would-be motorman left the 
civil service room, the chances are he would 
be a raving lunatic. Anyhow I would n't like 
to ride on his car. Just here I want to say one 
last final word about civil service. In the last 
ten years I have made an investigation which 
I 've kept quiet till this time. Now I have all 
the figures together, and I 'm ready to an- 
nounce the result. My investigation was to 
find out how many civil service reformers, and 
how many politicians were in state prisons. 
I discovered that there was forty per cent 
more civil service reformers among the jail- 
birds. If any legislative committee wants the 
detailed figures, I '11 prove what I say. I 
don't want to give the figures now, because I 
want to keep them to back me up when I go 
to Albany to get the civil service law repealed. 



Don't you think that when I 've had 
my inning, the civil service law will go down, 
and the people will see that the politicians 
are all right, and that they ought to have the 
job of runnin' things when municipal owner- 
ship comes ? 

" One thing more about municipal owner- 
ship. If the city owned the railroads, etc., 
salaries would be sure to go up. Higher sal- 
aries is the cryin' need of the day. Municipal 
ownership would increase them all along the 
line and would stir up such patriotism as 
New York City never knew before. You 
can't be patriotic on a salary that just keeps 
the wolf from the door. Any man who pre- 
tends he can will bear watchin'. Keep your 
hand on your watch and pocket-book when 
he 's about. But, when a man has a good fat 
salary, he finds himself hummin' *Hail 
Columbia,' all unconscious and he fancies, 
when he 's ridin' in a trolley-car, that the 


wheels are always sayin' : * Yankee Doodle 
Came to Town.' I know how it is myself. 
When I got my first good job from the city I 
bought up all the fire-crackers in my district 
to salute this glorious country. I could n't 
wait for the Fourth of July. I got the boys on 
the block to fire them off for me, and I felt 
proud of bein' an American. For a long time 
after that I use to wake up nights singin' the 
* Star Spangled Banner. 

> >> 



1 'VE seen more than one hundred * De- 
mocracies ' rise and fall in New York City in 
the last quarter of a century. At least a half 
dozen new so-called Democratic organiza- 
tions are formed every year. All of them go in 
to down Tammany and take its place, but 
they seldom last more than a year or two, 
while Tammany 's like the everlastin' rocks, 
the eternal hills and the blockades on the 
' L ' road — it goes on forever. 

"I recall off-hand the County Democracy, 
which was the only real opponent Tammany 
has had in my time, the Irving Hall Democ- 
racy, the New York State Democracy, the 
German-American Democracy, the Protec- 



tion Democracy, the Independent County 
Democracy, the Greater New York Democ- 
racy, the Jimmy O'Brien Democracy, the 
DeHcatessen Dealers' Democracy, the Sil- 
ver Democracy, and the ItaHan Democracy. 
Not one of them is hvin' to-day, although 
I hear somethin' about the ghost of the 
Greater New York Democracy bein' seen 
on Broadway once or twice a year. 

**In the old days of the County Democ- 
racy, a new Democratic organization meant 
some trouble for Tammany — for a time 
anyhow. Nowadays a new Democracy means 
nothin' at all except that about a dozen 
bone-hunters have got together for one cam- 
paign only to try to induce Tammany to 
give them a job or two, or in order to get in 
with the reformers for the same purpose. 
You might think that it would cost a lot of 
money to get up one of these organizations 
and keep it goin' for even one campaign, 


but, Lord bless you! it costs next to nothin'. 
Jimmy O'Brien brought the manufacture of 
'Democracies' down to an exact science, 
and reduced the cost of production so as to 
bring it within the reach of all. Any man with 
$50 can now have a 'Democracy' of his own. 
"I 've looked into the industry, and can 
give rock-bottom figures. Here 's the items 
of cost of a new * Democracy : ' 

A dinner to twelve bone-hunters $12.00 

A speech on Jeffersonian Democracy 00.00 

A proclamation of principles (typewriting) ... 2.00 

Rent of a small room one month for headquarters. 12.00 

Stationer}' 2.00 

Twelve second-hand chairs 6.00 

One second-hand table 2.00 

Twenty-nine cuspidors 9.00 

Sign-painting 5.00 

Total $50.00 

"Is there any reason for wonder then, 
that ' Democracies ' spring up all over when 
a municipal campaign is comin' on ? If you 



land even one small job, you get a big return 
on your investment. You don't have to pay 
for advertisin' in the papers. The New York 
papers tumble over one another to give col- 
umns to any new organization that comes 
out against Tammany. In describin' the 
formation of a * Democracy ' on the $50 basis, 
accordin' to the items I give, the papers 
would say somethin* like this: *The organi- 
zation of the Delicatessen Democracy last 
night threatens the existence of Tammany 
Hall. It is a grand move for a new and 
pure Democracy in this city. Well may the 
Tammany leaders be alarmed, Panic has 
already broke loose in Fourteenth Street. The 
vast crowd that gathered at the launching of 
the new organization, the stirrin' speeches 
and the proclamation of principles mean that, 
at last, there is an uprisin' that will end Tam- 
many's career of corruption. The Delicates- 
sen Democracy will open in a few days spa- 

1 109 ] 


cious headquarters where all true Democrats 
may gather and prepare for the fight.' 

" Say, ain't some of the papers awful gul- 
lible about politics ? Talk about come-ons 
from Iowa or Texas — they ain't in it with 
the childlike simplicity of these papers. 

*' It 's a wonder to me that more men don't 
go into this kind of manuf acturin' industry. It 
has bigger profits generally than the green- 
goods business and none of the risks. And you 
don't have to invest as much as the green- 
goods men. Just see what good things some of 
these ' Democracies ' got in the last few years ! 
The New York State Democracy in 1897, 
landed a Supreme Court Justiceship for the 
man who manufactured the concern — a four- 
teen-year term at $17,500 a year, that is, $245,- 
000. You see, Tammany was rather scared 
that year and was bluffed into givin' this job to 
get the support of the State Democracy which, 
by the way, went out of business quick and 


prompt the day after it got this big plum. 
"The next year the German Democracy 
landed a place of the same kind. And then 
see how the Greater New York Democracy 
worked the game on the reformers in 1901! 
The men who managed this concern were 
former Tammanyites who had lost their 
grip; yet they made the Citizens' Union in- 
nocents believe that they were the real thing 
in the way of reformers, and that they had 
100,000 votes back of them. They got the 
Borough President of Manhattan, the Presi- 
dent of the Board of Aldermen, the Register 
and a lot of lesser places. It was the greatest 
bunco game of modern times. 

"And then, in 1894, when Strong was 
elected mayor, what a harvest it was for all 
the little ' Democracies ' that was made to or- 
der that year! Every one of them got some- 
thin' good. In one case, all the nine men in 
an organization got jobs payin' from $2000 



to $5000. I happen to know exactly what it 
cost to manufacture that organization. It 
was $42.04. They left out the stationery, and 
had only twenty-three cuspidors. The extra 
four cents was for two postage stamps. 

"The only reason I can imagine why more 
men don't go into this industry is because 
they don't know about it. And just here it 
strikes me that it might not be wise to pub- 
lish what I 've said. Perhaps if it gets to be 
known what a snap this manufacture of 
* Democracies ' is, all the green-goods men, 
the bunco-steerers, and the young Napo- 
leons of finance, will go into it and the public 
will be humbugged more than it has been. 
But, after all, what difference would it 
make ? There 's always a certain number of 
suckers and a certain number of men lookin' 
for a chance to take them in, and the suckers 
are sure to be took one way or another. It 's 
the everlastin' law of demand and supply." 



oINCE the eighty-cent gas bill was de- 
feated in Albany, everybody's talkin' about 
senators bein' bribed. Now, I wasn't in 
the Senate last session, and I don't know the 
ins and outs of everything that was done, but 
I can tell you that the legislators are often 
hauled over the coals when they are all on 
the level. I 've been there and I know. For 
instance, when I voted in the Senate in 1904, 
for the Remsen Bill, that the newspapers 
called the 'Astoria Gas Grab Bill,' they 
did n't do a thing to me. The papers kept up 
a howl about all the supporters of the bill 
bein' bought up by the Consolidated Gas 
Company, and the Citizens' Union did me 



the honor to call me the commander-in- 
chief of the ' Black Horse Cavalry. ' 

" The fact is that I was workin' for my 
district all this time, and I was n*t bribed by 
nobody. There 's several of these gas-houses 
in the district, and I wanted to get them over 
to Astoria for three reasons : First, because 
they 're nuisances ; second, because there 's 
no votes in them for me any longer; third, be- 
cause — well, I had a little private reason 
which I '11 explain further on. I need n't 
explain how they 're nuisances. They 're 
worse than open sewers. Still, I might have 
stood that if they had n't degenerated so 
much in the last few years. 

"Ah, gas-houses ain't what they used to be ! 
Not very long ago, each gas-house was good 
for a couple of hundred votes. All the men 
employed in them were Irishmen and Ger- 
mans who lived in the district. Now, it is all 
different. The men are dagoes who live 



across in Jersey and take no interest in 
the district. What 's the use of havin' ill- 
smellin' gas-houses if there 's no votes in 
them ? 

" Now, as to my private reason. Well, I 'm 
a business man and go in for any business 
that 's profitable and honest. Real estate is 
one of my specialties. I know the value of 
every foot of ground in my district, and I 
calculated long ago that if them gas-houses 
was removed, surroundin' property would 
go up 100 per cent. When the Remsen 
Bill, providin' for the removal of the gas- 
houses to Queens County came up, I said 
to myself : * George, has n't your chance 
come ? ' I answered : ' Sure. ' Then I sized 
up the chances of the bill. I found it was cer- 
tain to pass the Senate and the Assembly, 
and I got assurances straight from head- 
quarters that Governor Odell would sign it. 
Next I came down to the city to find out the 



mayor's position. I got it straight that he 
would approve the bill, too. 

" Can't you guess what I did then ? Like 
any sane man who had my information, I 
went in and got options on a lot of the 
property around the gas-houses. Well, the 
bill went through the Senate and the Assem- 
bly all right and the mayor signed it, but 
Odell backslided at the last minute and the 
whole game fell through. If it had succeeded, 
I guess I would have been accused of 
graftin'. What I want to know is, what do 
you call it when I got left and lost a pot of 
money ? 

" I not only lost money, but I was abused for 
votin' for the bill. Was n't that outrageous ? 
They said I was in with the Consolidated 
Gas Company and all other kinds of rot, 
when I was really only workin' for my dis- 
trict and tryin' to turn an honest penny on 
the side. Anyhow I got a little fun out of the 



business. When the Remsen Bill was up, I 
was tryin' to put through a bill of my own — 
the Spuyten Duyvil Bill, which provided for 
fillin' in some land under water that the New 
York Central Railroad wanted. Well, the 
Remsen managers were afraid of bein' 
beaten and they went around offerin' to 
make trades with senators and assembly- 
men who had bills they were anxious to pass. 
They came to me and offered six votes for 
my Spuyten Duyvil Bill in exchange for my 
vote on the Remsen Bill. I took them up in 
a hurry, and they felt pretty sore afterwards 
when they heard I was goin' to vote for the 
Remsen Bill anyhow. 

"A word about that Spuyten Duyvil Bill, 
I was criticized a lot for introducin' it. They 
said I was workin' in the interest of the 
New York Central, and was goin' to get 
the contract for fillin' in. The fact is, that 
the fiUin' in was a good thing for the 



city, and if it helped the New York Cen- 
tral, too, what of it? That railroad is a 
great public institution, and I was never an 
enemy of public institutions. As to the con- 
tract, it has n't come along yet. If it does 
come, it will find me at home at all proper 
and reasonable hours, if there is a good 
profit in sight. 

** The papers and some people are always 
ready to find wrong motives in what us 
statesmen do. If we bring about some big 
improvement that benefits the city and it 
just happens, as a sort of coincidence, that 
we make a few dollars out of the improve- 
ment, they say we are grafters. But we are 
used to this kind of ingratitude. It falls to 
the lot of all statesmen, especially Tammany 
statesmen. All we can do is to bow our heads 
in silence and wait till time has cleared our 

''Just think of mentionin' dishonest graft in 


connection with the name of George Wash- 
ington Plunkitt, the man who gave the city 
its magnificent chain of parks, its Washing- 
ton Bridge, its Speedway, its Museum of 
Natural History, its One Hundred and Fifty- 
fifth Street Viaduct and its West Side Court- 
house! I was the father of the bills that pro- 
vided for all these ; yet, because I supported 
the Remsen and Spuyten Duyvil Bills, some 
people have questioned my honest motives. 
If that 's the case, how can you expect legis- 
lators to fare who are not the fathers of the 
parks, the Washington Bridge, the Speed- 
way and the Viaduct? 

"Now, understand; I ain't defendin' the 
senators who killed the eighty-cent gas bill. 
I don't know why they acted as they did ; I 
only want to impress the idea to go slow 
before you make up your mind that a man, 
occupyin' the exalted position that I held for 
so many years, has done wrong. For all I 


know, these senators may have been as 
honest and high-minded about the gas bill 
as I was about the Remsen and Spuyten 
Duyvil bills." 


plunkitt's fondest dream 

1 HE time is comin' and, though I 'm no 
youngster, I may see it, when New York 
City will break away from the State and be- 
come a state itself. It 's got to come. The 
feelin' between this city and the hayseeds 
that make a livin' by plunderin' it is every 
bit as bitter as the feelin' between the North 
and South before the war. And, let me tell 
you, if there ain't a peaceful separation be- 
fore long, we may have the horrors of civil 
war right here in New York State. Why, I 
know a lot of men in my district who would 
like nothin' better to-day than to go out 
gunnin' for hayseeds ! 

" New York City has got a bigger popula- 



tion than most of the States in the Union. 
It 's got more wealth than any dozen of 
them. Yet the people here, as I explained 
before, are nothin' but slaves of the Albany 
gang. We have stood the slavery a long, long 
time, but the uprisin' is near at hand. It will 
be a fight for liberty, just like the American 
Revolution. We' 11 get liberty peacefully if 
we can; by cruel war if we must. 

'*Just think how lovely things would be 
here if we had a Tammany Governor and leg- 
islature meetin', say in the neighborhood of 
Fifty-ninth Street, and a Tammany Mayor 
and Board of Aldermen doin' business in the 
City Hall! How sweet and peaceful every- 
thing would go on! The people would n't 
have to bother about no thin'. Tammany 
would take care of everything for them in its 
nice quiet way. You would n't hear of any 
conflicts between the state and city authori- 
ties. They would settle everything pleasant 



and comfortable at Tammany Hall, and 
every bill introduced in the Legislature by 
Tammany would be sure to go through. The 
Republicans would n't count. 

" Imagine how the city would be built up in 
a short time! At present we can't make a 
public improvement of any consequence 
without goin' to Albany for permission, and 
most of the time we get turned down when 
we go there. But, with a Tammany Gov- 
ernor and legislature up at Fifty-ninth 
Street, how public works would hum here! 
The mayor and aldermen could decide on 
an improvement, telephone the capitol, have 
a bill put through in a jiffy and — there you 
are. We could have a state constitution, too, 
which would extend the debt limit so that we 
could issue a whole lot more bonds. As things 
are now, all the money spent for docks, for 
instance, is charged against the city in cal- 
culating the debt limit, although the Dock 

[ US ] 


Department provides immense revenues. 
It 's the same with some other departments. 
This humbug would be dropped if Tam- 
many ruled at the Capitol and the City Hall, 
and the city would have mone^ to burn. 

"Another thing — the constitution of the 
new state would n't have a word about civil 
service, and if any man dared to introduce 
any kind of a civil service bill in the Legisla- 
ture, he would be fired out the window. Then 
we would have government of the people by 
the people who were elected to govern them. 
That 's the kind of government Lincoln 
meant. O what a glorious future for the city ! 
Whenever I think of it I feel like goin' out 
and celebratin', and I 'm really almost sorry 
that I don't drink. 

** You may ask what would become of the 
up-State people if New York City left them 
in the lurch and went into the State business 
on its own account. Well, we would n't be 


under no obligation to provide for them; 
still I would be in favor of helpin' them along 
for a while until they could learn to work and 
earn an honest livin', just like the United 
States Government looks after the Indians. 
These hayseeds have been so used to livin' 
off of New York City that they would be 
helpless after we left them. It would n't do to 
let them starve. We might make some sort of 
an appropriation for them for a few years, 
but it would be with the distinct under- 
standin' that they must get busy right away 
and learn to support themselves. If, after, 
say five years, they were n't self-supportin', 
we could withdraw the appropriation and let 
them shift for themselves. The plan might 
succeed and it might not. We 'd be doin' our 
duty anyhow. 

**Some persons might say: *But how 
about it if the hayseed politicians moved 
down here and went in to get control of the 



government of the new state ? ' We could 
provide against that easy by passin' a law 
that these politicians could n't come below 
the Bronx without a sort of passport limitin' 
the time of their stay here, and forbiddin' 
them to monkey with politics here. I don't 
know just what kind of a bill would be re- 
quired to fix this, but with a Tammany con- 
stitution, governor, legislature and mayor, 
there would be no trouble in settlin' a little 
matter of that sort. 

**Say, I don't wish I was a poet, for if I was, 
I guess I 'd be livin' in a garret on no dollars 
a week instead of runnin' a great contractin' 
and transportation business which is doin' 
pretty well, thank you; but, honest, now, 
the notion takes me sometimes to yell poetry 
of the red-hot-hail-glorious-land kind when I 
think of New York City as a state by itself." 


Tammany's patriotism 

TaMMANY'S the most patriotic or- 
ganization on earth, notwithstandin' the fact 
that the civil service law is sappin' the 
foundations of patriotism all over the coun- 
try. Nobody pays any attention to the Fourth 
of July any longer except Tammany and the 
small boy. When the Fourth comes, the re- 
formers, with Revolutionary names parted 
in the middle, run off to Newport or the Adi- 
rondacks to get out of the way of the noise 
and everything that reminds them of the 
glorious day. How different it is with Tam- 
many! The very constitution of the Tam- 
many Society requires that we must assemble 
at the wigwam on the Fgurth, regardless of 



the weather, and Ksten to the readin' of the 
Declaration of Independence and patriotic 

"You ought to attend one of these meet- 
in's. They 're a Hberal education in pa- 
triotism. The great hall up-stairs is filled 
with five thousand people, suffocatin' from 
heat and smoke. Every man Jack of these 
five thousand knows that down in the base- 
ment there 's a hundred cases of champagne 
and two hundred kegs of beer ready to flow 
when the signal is given. Yet that crowd 
stick to their seats without turnin' a hair 
while, for four solid hours, the Declaration 
of Independence is read, long-winded orators 
speak, and the glee club sings itself hoarse. 

"Talk about heroism in the battlefield! 
That comes and passes away in a moment. 
You ain't got time to be anything but heroic. 
But just think of five thousand men sittin' 
in the hottest place on earth for four long 



hours, with parched Kps and gnawin' 
stomachs, and knowin' all the time that the 
delights of the oasis in the desert were only 
two flights down-stairs ! Ah, that is the high- 
est kind of patriotism, the patriotism of 
long sufferin' and endurance. What man 
wouldn't rather face a cannon for a minute 
or two than thirst for four hours, with cham- 
pagne and beer almost under his nose ? 

" And then see how they applaud and yell 
when patriotic things are said ! As soon as the 
man on the platform starts off with *when, 
in the course of human events,' word goes 
around that it 's the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, and a mighty roar goes up. The 
Declaration ain't a very short document 
and the crowd has heard it on every Fourth 
but they give it just as fine a send-off as if it 
was brand new and awful excitin'. Then the 
' long talkers ' get in their work, that is two or 
three orators who are good for an hour each. 



Heat never has any effect on these men. 
They use every minute of their time. Some- 
times human nature gets the better of a man 
in the audience and he begins to nod, but he 
always wakes up with a hurrah for the Dec- 
laration of Independence. 

"The greatest hero of the occasion is the 
Grand Sachem of the Tammany Society 
who presides. He and the rest of us 
Sachems come on the stage wearin' stove- 
pipe hats, accordin' to the constitution, but 
we can shed ours right off, while the Grand 
Sachem is required to wear his hat all 
through the celebration. Have you any idea 
what that means ? Four hours under a big 
silk hat in a hall where the heat registers 110 
and the smoke 250 ! And the Grand Sachem 
is expected to look pleasant all the time and 
say nice things when introducin' the speak- 
ers! Often his hand goes to his hat, uncon- 
scious like, then he catches himself up in 



time and looks around like a man who is in 
the tenth story of a burnin' buildin' seekin' a 
way to escape. I believe that Fourth-of -July- 
silk hat shortened the life of one of our 
Grand Sachems, the late Supreme Court 
Justice Smyth, and I know that one of our 
Sachems refused the office of Grand Sachem 
because he could n't get up sufficient patri- 
otism to perform this four-hour hat act. You 
see, there 's degrees of patriotism just as 
there 's degrees in everything else. 

"You don't hear of the Citizens' Union 
people holdin' Fourth of July celebrations 
under a five-pound silk hat, or any other 
way, do you ? The Cits take the Fourth like 
a dog I had when I was a boy. That dog 
knew as much as some Cits and he acted just 
like them about the glorious day. Exactly 
forty-eight hours before each Fourth of July, 
the dog left our house on a run and hid him- 
self in the Bronx woods. The day after the 



Fourth he turned up at home as regular as 
clockwork. He must have known what a 
dog is up against on the Fourth. Anyhow, he 
kept out of the way. The name-parted-in-the- 
middle aristocrats act in just the same way. 
They don't want to be annoyed with fire- 
crackers and the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, and when they see the Fourth comin' 
they hustle off to the woods like my dog. 

" Tammany don't only show its patriotism 
at Fourth of July celebrations. It 's always 
on deck when the country needs its services. 
After the Spanish-American War broke out, 
John J. Scannell, the Tammany leader of the 
Twenty-fifth district, wrote to Governor 
Black offerin' to raise a Tammany regiment 
to go to the front. If you want proof, go to 
Tammany Hall and see the beautiful set of 
engrossed resolutions about this regiment. 
It 's true that the Governor did n't accept 

the offer, but it showed Tammany's patriot- 



ism. Some enemies of the organization have 
said that the offer to raise the regiment was 
made after the Governor let it be known that 
no more volunteers were wanted, but that 's 
the talk of envious slanderers. 

"Now, a word about Tammany's love for 
the American flag. Did you ever see Tam- 
many Hall decorated for a celebration ? It 's 
just a mass of flags. They even take down 
the window shades and put flags in place of 
them. There 's flags everywhere except on 
the floors. We don't care for expense where 
the American flag is concerned, especially 
after we have won an election. In 1904 we 
originated the custom of givin' a small flag 
to each man as he entered Tammany Hall 
for the Fourth of July celebration. It took 
like wild-fire. The men waved their flags 
whenever they cheered and the sight made 
me feel so patriotic that I forgot all about 
civil service for a while. And the good work 

[ 133 ] 


of the flags did n't stop there. The men car- 
ried them home and gave them to the chil- 
dren, and the kids got patriotic, too. Of 
course, it all cost a pretty penny, but what of 
that ? We had won at the polls the precedin' 
November, had the oflBces and could afford 
to make an extra investment in patriotism. " 



1 HE civil service gang is always howlin' 
about candidates and office-holders puttin' 
up money for campaigns and about cor- 
porations chippin' in. They might as well 
howl about givin' contributions to churches. 
A political organization has to have money 
for its business as well as a church, and who 
has more right to put up than the men who 
get the good things that are goin' ? Take, for 
instance, a great political concern like Tam- 
many Hall. It does missionary work like a 
church, it 's got big expenses and it 's got to 
be supported by the faithful. If a corporation 
sends in a check to help the good work of 
the Tammany Society, why should n't we 



take it like other missionary societies ? Of 
course, the day may come when we '11 reject 
the money of the rich as tainted, but it had n't 
come when I left Tammany Hall at 11.25 a.m. 

"Not long ago some newspapers had fits 
because the Assemblyman from my district 
said he had put up $500 when he was nomi- 
nated for the Assembly last year. Every poli- 
tician in town laughed at these papers. I 
don't think there was even a Citizens' Union 
man who did n't know that candidates of 
both parties have to chip in for campaign ex- 
penses. The sums they pay are accordin' to 
their salaries and the length of their terms 
of office, if elected. Even candidates for the 
Supreme Court have to fall in line. A Su- 
preme Court Judge in New York County 
gets $17,500 a year, and he 's expected, 
when nominated, to help along the good 
cause with a year's salary. Why not ? He has 


fourteen years on the bench ahead of him, 
and ten thousand other lawyers would be 
willin' to put up twice as much to be in his 
shoes. Now, I ain't sayin' that we sell nomi- 
nations. That 's a different thing altogether. 
There 's no auction and no regular biddin'. 
The man is picked out and somehow he gets 
to understand what 's expected of him in the 
way of a contribution, and he ponies up — 
all from gratitude to the organization that 
honored him, see.^ 

*' Let me tell you an instance that shows 
the difference between sellin' nominations 
and arrangin' them in the way I described. 
A few years ago a Republican district leader 
controlled the nomination for Congress in 
his Congressional district. Four men wanted 
it. At first the leader asked for bids privately, 
but decided at last that the best thing to do 
was to get the four men together in the back 
room of a certain saloon and have an open 


auction. When he had his men Hned up, he 
got on a chair, told about the value of the 
goods for sale, and asked for bids in regular 
auctioneer style. The highest bidder got the 
nomination for $5000. Now, that was n't 
right at all. These things ought to be always 
fixed up nice and quiet. 

"As to oflBce-holders, they would be in- 
grates if they did n't contribute to the or- 
ganization that put them in office. They 
need n't be assessed. That would be against 
the law. But they know what 's expected of 
them, and if they happen to forget they can 
be reminded polite and courteous. Dan 
Donegan, who used to be the Wiskinkie of 
the Tammany Society, and received contri- 
butions from grateful office-holders, had a 
pleasant way of remindin'. If a man forgot 
his duty to the organization that made him, 
Dan would call on the man, smile as sweet 
as you please and say : ' You have n't been 

[ 138 ] 


round at the Hall lately, have you ? ' If the 
man tried to slide around the question, Dan 
would say: ' It 's gettin' awful cold. ' Then he 
would have a fit of shiverin' and walk 
away. What could be more polite and, at the 
same time, more to the point ? No force, no 
threats — only a little shiverin' which any 
man is liable to even in summer. 

*'Just here, I want to charge one more 
crime to the infamous civil service law. It has 
made men turn ungrateful. A dozen years 
ago, when there was n't much civil service 
business in the city government, and when 
the administration could turn out almost any 
man holdin' office, Dan's shiver took effect 
every time and there was no ingratitude in 
the city departments. But when the civil 
service law came in and all the clerks got 
lead-pipe cinches on their jobs, ingratitude 
spread right away. Dan shivered and shook 
till his bones rattled, but many of the city 

[ 13^] 


employees only laughed at him. One day, I 
remember, he tackled a clerk in the Public 
Works Department, who used to give up 
pretty regular, and, after the usual question, 
began to shiver. The clerk smiled. Dan shook 
till his hat fell off. The clerk took ten cents 
out of his pocket, handed it to Dan and 
said : ' Poor man ! Go and get a drink to warm 
yourself up.' Wasn't that shameful? And 
yet, if it had n't been for the civil service law, 
that clerk would be contributin' right along 
to this day. 

"The civil service law don't cover every- 
thing, however. There 's lots of good jobs 
outside its clutch, and the men that get them 
are grateful every time. I 'm not speakin' of 
Tammany Hall alone, remember! It 's the 
same with the Republican Federal and State 
office-holders, and every organization that 
has or has had jobs to give out — except, 
of course, the Citizens' Union. The Cits held 

[ 140 1 

office only a couple of years and, knowin' 
that they would never be in again, each Cit 
office-holder held on for dear life to every 
dollar that came his way. 

"Some people say they can't understand 
what becomes of all the money that 's 
collected for campaigns. They would un- 
derstand fast enough if they were district 
leaders. There 's never been half enough 
money to go around. Besides the expenses 
for meetin's, bands and all that, there 's the 
bigger bill for the district workers who get 
men to the polls. These workers are mostly 
men who want to serve their country but can't 
get jobs in the city departments on account of 
the civil service law. They do the next best 
thing by keepin' track of the voters and 
seein' that they come to the polls and vote 
the right way. Some of these deservin' citi- 
zens have to make enough on registration 
and election days to keep them the rest of the 



year. Is n't it right that they should get a 
share of the campaign money? 

"Just remember that there 's thirty-five 
Assembly districts in New York County, and 
thirty-six district leaders reachin' out for the 
Tammany dough-bag for somethin' to keep 
up the patriotism of ten thousand workers, 
and you w^ould n't wonder that the cry for 
more, more, is goin' up from every district 
organization now and forevermore. Amen." 



1 HAVE explained how to succeed in poli- 
tics. I want to add that no matter how well 
you learn to play the political game, you 
won't make a lastin' success of it if you 're a 
drinkin' man. I never take a drop of any 
kind of intoxicatin' liquor. I ain't no fanatic. 
Some of the saloon-keepers are my best 
friends, and I don't mind goin' into a saloon 
any day with my friends. But as a matter of 
business I leave whisky and beer and the 
rest of that stuff alone. As a matter of bus- 
iness, too, I take for my lieutenants in my 
district men who don't drink. I tried the 
other kind for several years, but it did n't 
pay. They cost too much. For instance, I had 



a young man who was one of the best hust- 
lers in town. He knew every man in the dis- 
trict, was popular everywhere and could 
induce a half-dead man to come to the polls 
on election day. But, regularly, two weeks 
before election, he started on a drunk, 
and I had to hire two men to guard 
him day and night and keep him sober 
enough to do his work. That cost a lot of 
money, and I dropped the young man 
after a while. 

"Maybe you think I 'm unpopular with 
the saloon-keepers because I don't drink. 
You 're wrong. The most successful saloon- 
keepers don't drink themselves and they un- 
derstand that my temperance is a business 
proposition, just like their own. I have a sa- 
lod ^i ider my headquarters. If a saloon- 
keeper gets into trouble, he always knows 
that Senator Plunkitt is the man to help him 
out. If there is a bill in the Legislature mak- 



in' it easier for the liquor dealers, I am for it 
every time. Im a one of the best friends the 
saloon men have — but I don't drink their 
whisky. I won't go through the temperance 
lecture dodge and tell you how many bright 
young men I 've seen fall victims to intem- 
perance; but I '11 tell you that I could name 
dozens — young men who had started on 
the road to statesmanship, who could carry 
their districts every time, and who could 
turn out any vote you wanted at the pri- 
maries. I honestly believe that drink is the 
greatest curse of the day, except, of course, 
civil service, and that it has driven more 
young men to ruin than anything except 
civil service examinations. 

"Look at the great leaders of Tammany 
Hall! No regular drinkers among m. 
Richard Croker's strongest drink was hy. 
Charlie Murphy takes a glass of wii at 
dinner sometimes, but he don't go be} ond 



that. A drinkin' man would n't last two 
weeks as leader of Tammany Hall. Nor 
can a man manage an assembly district long 
if he drinks. He 's got to have a clear head all 
the time. I could name ten men who, in the 
last few years, lost their grip in their dis- 
tricts because they began drinkin'. There 's 
now thirty-six district leaders in Tammany 
Hall, and I don't believe a half-dozen of 
them ever drink anything except at meals. 
People have got an idea that because the 
liquor men are with us in campaigns, our 
district leaders spend most of their time lean- 
in' against bars. There could n't be a wronger 
idea. The district leader makes a business 
of politics, gets his livin' out of it, and, in or- 
der to succeed, he 's got to keep sober just 
like in any other business. 

"Just take as examples, *Big Tim' and 
* Little Tim' Sullivan. They're known all 
over the country as the Bowery leaders and, 

[ 146] 

as there 's nothin' but saloons on the Bow- 
ery, people might think that they are hard 
drinkers. The fact is that neither of them has 
ever touched a drop of liquor in his life or 
even smoked a cigar. Still they don't make no 
pretences of bein' better than anybody else, 
and don't go around deliverin' temperance 
lectures. Big Tim made money out of liquor 
— sellin' it to other people. That 's the only 
way to get good out of liquor. 

"Look at all the Tammany heads of city 
departments! There 's not a real drinkin' 
man in the lot. Oh, yes, there are some 
prominent men in the organization who 
drink sometimes, but they are not the men 
who have power. They 're ornaments, fancy 
speakers and all that, who make a fine show 
behind the footlights, but ain't in it when it 
comes to directin' the city government and 
the Tammany organization. The men who 
sit in the executive committee-room at Tam- 



many Hall and direct things are men who 
celebrate on apollinaris or vichy. Let me tell 
you what I saw on election night in 1897, 
when the Tammany ticket swept the city: 
Up to 10 P.M. Croker, John F. Carroll, Tim 
Sullivan, Charlie Murphy, and myself sat in 
the committee-room receivin' returns. When 
nearly all the city was heard from and we 
saw that Van Wyck was elected by a big ma- 
jority, I invited the crowd to go across the 
street for a little celebration. A lot of small 
politicians followed us, expectin' to see mag- 
nums of champagne opened. The waiters in 
the restaurant expected it, too, and you 
never saw a more disgusted lot of waiters 
when they got our orders. Here 's the orders : 
Croker, vichy and bicarbonate of soda; Car- 
roll, seltzer lemonade; Sullivan, apollinaris; 
Murphy, vichy; Plunkitt, ditto. Before mid- 
night we were all in bed, and next mornin' 
we were up bright and early attendin' to busi- 


ness, while other men were nursin' swelled 
heads. Is there anything the matter with 
temperance as a pure business proposition ?" 

[ 149 ] 


When I retired from the Senate, I 
thought I would take a good, long rest, such 
a rest as a man needs who has held office for 
about forty years, and has held four different 
offices in one year and drawn salaries from 
three of them at the same time. Drawin' 
so many salaries is rather fatiguin', you 
know, and, as I said, I started out for a rest ; 
but when I seen how things were goin' in New 
York State, and how a great big black 
shadow hung over us, I said to myself : ' No 
rest for you, George. Your work ain't done. 
Your country still needs you and you 
must n't lay down yet. ' 

" What was the great big black shadow ? It 


was the primary election law, amended so as 
to knock out what are called the party 
bosses by lettin' in everybody at the pri- 
maries and givin' control over them to state 
officials. Oh, yes, that is a good way to do 
up the so-called bosses, but, have you ever 
thought what would become of the country 
if the bosses were put out of business, and 
their places were taken by a lot of cart-tail 
orators and college graduates ? It would 
mean chaos. It would be just like takin' a 
lot of dry -goods clerks and settin' them to run 
express trains on the New York Central 
Railroad. It makes my heart bleed to think 
of it. Ignorant people are always talkin' 
against party bosses, but just wait till the 
bosses are gone ! Then, and not until then, 
will they get the right sort of epitaphs, as 
Patrick Henry or Robert Emmet said. 

" Look at the bosses of Tammany Hall in 
the last twenty years. What magnificent men ! 



To them New York City owes pretty much 
all it is to-day. John Kelly, .Richard Croker, 
and Charles F. Murphy — what names in 
American history compares with them, 
except Washington and Lincoln? They 
built up the grand Tammany organization, 
and the organization built up New York. 
Suppose the city had to depend for the last 
twenty years on irresponsible concerns like 
the Citizens' Union, where would it be now ? 
You can make a pretty good guess if you re- 
call the Strong and Low administrations 
when there was no boss, and the heads of de- 
partments were at odds all the time with 
each other, and the Mayor was at odds with 
the lot of them. They spent so much time in 
arguin' and makin' grand-stand play, that 
the interests of the city were forgotten. An- 
other administration of that kind would put 
New York back a quarter of a century. 
" Then see how beautiful a Tammany city 

[ 152 ] 


government runs, with a so-called boss 
directin' the whole shootin' match ! The ma- 
chinery moves so noiseless that you would n't 
think there was any. If there 's any differ- 
ences of opinion, the Tammany leader set- 
tles them quietly, and his orders go every 
time. How nice it is for the people to feel that 
they can get up in the mornin' without bein' 
afraid of seein' in the papers that the Com- 
missioner of Water Supply has sandbagged 
the Dock Commissioner, and that the Mayor 
and heads of the departments have been 
taken to the police court as witnesses ! That 's 
no joke. I remember that, under Strong, 
some commissioners came very near sand- 
baggin' one another. 

" Of course, the newspapers like the re- 
form administration. Why ? Because these 
administrationsjwith their daily rows, furnish 
as racy news as prize-fights or divorce cases. 
Tammany don't care to get in the papers. It 



goes right along attendin' to business quietly 
and only wants to be let alone. That 's one 
reason why the papers are against us. 

" Some papers complain that the bosses get 
rich while devotin' their lives to the interests 
of the city. What of it ? If opportunities for 
turnin' an honest dollar comes their way, 
why should n't they take advantage of them, 
just as I have done ? As I said, in another 
talk, there is honest graft and dishonest 
graft. The bosses go in for the former. There 
is so much of it in this big town that they 
would be fools to go in for dishonest graft. 

" Now, the primary election law threatens 
to do away with the boss and make the city 
government a menagerie. That 's why I 
can't take the rest I counted on. I 'm goin' 
to propose a bill for the next session of the 
legislature repealin' this dangerous law, and 
leavin' the primaries entirely to the organiza- 
tions themselves, as they used to be. Then 

[ 154 ] 


will return the good old times, when our dis- 
trict leaders could have nice comfortable 
primary elections at some place selected by 
themselves and let in only men that they 
approved of as good Democrats. Who is a 
better judge of the Democracy of a man who 
offers his vote than the leader of the district ? 
Who is better equipped to keep out unde- 
sirable voters ? 

" The men who put through the primary 
law are the same crowd that stand for the 
civil service blight and they have the same 
objects in view — the destruction of gov- 
ernments by party, the downfall of the con- 
stitution and hell generally." 



r\LTHOUGH I 'm not a drinkin' man 
myself, I mourn with the poor Hquor dealers 
of New York City, who are taxed and op- 
pressed for the benefit of the farmers up 
the state. The Raines liquor law is infamous. 
It takes away nearly all the profits of the 
saloon-keepers, and then turns in a large part 
of the money to the State treasury to relieve 
the hayseeds from taxes. Ah, who knows 
how many honest, hard-workin' saloon- 
keepers have been driven to untimely 
graves by this law! I know personally of a 
half-dozen who committed suicide because 
they could n't pay the enormous license fee, 
and I have heard of many others. Every 

[ 156 ] 


time there is an increase of the fee, there is 
an increase in the suicide record of the city. 
Now, some of these Republican hayseeds are 
talkin' about makin' the liquor tax $1500, or 
even $2000 a year. That would mean the 
suicide of half of the liquor dealers in the 

"Just see how these poor fellows are op- 
pressed all around! First, liquor is taxed in 
the hands of the manufacturer by the United 
States Government; second, the wholesale 
dealer pays a special tax to the government; 
third, the retail dealer is specially taxed by 
the United States Government; fourth, the 
retail dealer has to pay a big tax to the State 

" Now, liquor dealing is criminal or it ain't. 
If it 's criminal, the men engaged in it ought 
to be sent to prison. If it ain't criminal, they 
ought to be protected and encouraged to 
make all the profit they honestly can. If it 's 



right to tax a saloon-keeper $1000, it 's 
right to put a heavy tax on dealers in other 
beverages — in milk, for instance — and 
make the dairymen pay up. But what a 
howl would be raised if a bill was intro- 
duced in Albany to compel the farmers to 
help support the State government! What 
would be said of a law that put a tax of, say 
$60 on a grocer, $150 on a dry -goods man, 
and $500 more if he includes the other goods 
that are kept in a country store ? 

"If the Raines law gave the money ex- 
torted from the saloon-keepers to the city, 
there might be some excuse for the tax. We 
would get some benefit from it, but it gives a 
big part of the tax to local option localities 
where the people are always shoutin' that 
liquor-dealin' is immoral. Ought these good 
people be subjected to the immoral influ- 
ence of money taken from the saloons — 
tainted money ? Out of respect for the tender 



consciences of these pious people, the 
Raines law ought to exempt them from all 
contamination from the plunder that comes 
from the saloon traflSc. Say, mark that sar- 
castic. Some people who ain't used to fine 
sarcasm might think I meant it. 

" The Raines people make a pretense that 
the high license fee promotes temperance. 
It 's just the other way around. It makes 
more intemperance and, what is as bad, it 
makes a monopoly in dram-shops. Soon the 
saloons will be in the hands of a vast trust, 
and any stuff can be sold for whisky or 
beer. It 's gettin' that way already. Some of 
the poor liquor dealers in my district have 
been forced to sell wood alcohol for whisky, 
and many deaths have followed. A half-dozen 
men died in a couple of days from this kind 
of whisky which was forced down their 
throats by the high liquor tax. If they raise 
the tax higher, wood alcohol will be too 

[ 159 ] 

costly, and I guess some dealers will have to 
get down to kerosene oil and add to the 
Rockefeller millions. 

** The way the Raines law divides the dif- 
ferent classes of licenses is also an outrage. 
The sumptuous hotel-saloons, with $10,000 
paintin's and bricky-brac and Oriental splen- 
dors gets off easier than a shanty on the 
rocks, by the water's edge in my district 
where boatmen drink their grog, and the only 
ornaments is a three-cornered mirror nailed 
to the wall, and a chromo of the fight between 
Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan. Besides, a 
premium is put on places that sell liquor not 
to be drunk on the premises, but to be taken 
home. Now, I want to declare that from my 
experience in New York City, I would rather 
see rum sold in the dram-shops unlicensed, 
provided the rum is swallowed on the spot, 
than to encourage, by a low tax, 'bucket- 
shops' from which the stuff is carried into 



the tenements at all hours of the day and 
night and make drunkenness and debauch- 
ery among the women and children. A 
* bucket-shop ' in the tenement district means 
a cheap, so-called distillery, where raw 
spirits, poisonous colorin' matter and water 
are sold for brandy and whisky at ten cents 
a quart, and carried away in buckets and 
pitchers ; I have always noticed that there are 
many undertakers wherever the 'bucket- 
shop' flourishes, and they have no dull 

*' I want it understood that I 'm not an ad- 
vocate of the liquor dealers or of drinkin'. I 
think every man would be better off if he 
did n't take any intoxicatin' drink at all, but 
as men will drink, they ought to have good 
stuff without impoverishin' themselves by 
goin' to fancy places and without riskin' 
death by goin' to poor places. The State 
should look after their interests as well as 



the interests of those who drink nothin' 
stronger than milk. 

"Now, as to the Uquor dealers themselves. 
They ain 't the criminals that cantin' hypo- 
crites say they are. I know lots of them and I 
know that, as a rule, they 're good honest 
citizens who conduct their business in a 
straight, honorable way. At a convention of 
the liquor dealers a few years ago, a big city 
city official welcomed them on behalf of the 
city and said : * Go on elevatin' your standard 
higher and higher. Go on with your good 
work. Heaven will bless you!' That was put- 
tin' it just a little strong, but the sentiment 
was all right and I guess the speaker went a 
bit further than he intended in his enthusi- 
asm over meetin' such a fine set of men and, 
perhaps, dinin' with them." 



1 HE Democratic party of the nation ain't 
dead, though it 's been givin' a Hfehke imi- 
tation of a corpse for several years. It can't 
die while its got Tammany for its backbone. 
The trouble is that the party's been chasin' 
after theories and stayin' up nights readin' 
books instead of studyin' human nature and 
actin' accordin', as I 've advised in tellin' 
how to hold your district. In two Presiden- 
tial campaigns, the leaders talked themselves 
red in the face about silver bein' the best 
money an gold bein' no good, and they 
tried to prove it out of books. Do you think 
the people cared for all that guff ? No. They 
heartily indorsed what Richard Croker said 



at the Hoffman House one day in 1900. 
* What 's the use of discussin' what 's the 
best kind of money ? ' said Croker. * I 'm in 
favor of all kinds of money — the more the 
better. ' See how a real Tammany statesman 
can settle in twenty-five words a problem 
that monopolized two campaigns! 

"Then imperialism. The Democratic 
party spent all its breath on that in the last 
national campaign. Its position was all right, 
sure, but you can't get people excited about 
the Philippines. They 've got too much at 
home to interest them; they 're too busy 
makin' a livin' to bother about the niggers in 
the Pacific. The party 's got to drop all them 
put-you-to-sleep issues and come out in 
1908 for somethin' that will wake the people 
up; somethin' that will make it worth while 
to work for the party. 

"There 's just one issue that would set this 
country on fire. The Democratic party 

[ 164 ] 

should say in the first plank of its platform : 
*We hereby declare, in national convention 
assembled, that the paramount issue now, 
always and forever, is the abolition of the 
iniquitous and villainous civil service laws 
which are destroyin' all patriotism, ruinin' 
the country and takin' away good jobs from 
them that earn them. We pledge ourselves, if 
our ticket is elected, to repeal those laws at 
once and put every civil service reformer in 

" Just imagine the wild enthusiasm of the 
party, if that plank was adopted, and the 
rush of Republicans to join us in restorin' 
our country to what it was before this col- 
lege professor's nightmare, called civil ser- 
vice reform, got hold of it! Of course, it 
would be all right to work in the platform 
some stuff about the tariff and sound money 
and the Philippines, as no platform seems 
to be complete without them, but they 


would n't count. The people would read only 
the first plank and then hanker for election 
day to come to put the Democratic party in 

** I see a vision. I see the civil service mon- 
ster lyin' flat on the ground. I see the Demo- 
cratic party standin' over it with foot on its 
neck and wearin' the crown of victory. I see 
Thomas Jefferson lookin' out from a cloud 
and sayin' : *Give him another sockdologer; 
finish him. ' And I see millions of men wav- 
in' their hats and singin' 'Glory Halle- 



Note — This chapter is based on extracts from Pluiikitt's 
Diary and on my daily observation of the work of the district 
leader. — W. L. R. 

1 HE life of the Tammany district leader 
is strenuous. To his work is due the wonder- 
ful recuperative power of the organization. 

One year it goes down in defeat and the 
prediction is made that it will never again 
raise its head. The district leader, un- 
daunted by defeat, collects his scattered 
forces, organizes them as only Tammany 
knows how to organize, and in a little while 
the organization is as strong as ever. 

No other politician in New York or else- 
where is exactly like the Tammany district 


leader or works as he does. As a rule, he has 
no business or occupation other than poli- 
tics. He plays politics every day and night 
in the year, and his headquarters bears the 
inscription, " Never closed. " 

Everybody in the district knows him. 
Everybody knows where to find him, and 
nearly everybody goes to him for assistance 
of one sort or another, especially the poor of 
the tenements. 

He is always obliging. He will go to the 
police courts to put in a good word for the 
** drunks and disorderlies " or pay their fines, 
if a good word is not effective. He will 
attend christenings, weddings, and funerals. 
He will feed the hungry and help bury the 

A philanthropist ? Not at all. He is playing 
politics all the time. 

Brought up in Tammany Hall, he has 
learned how to reach the hearts of the great 


mass of voters. He does not bother about 
reaching their heads. It is his behef that ar- 
guments and campaign hterature have never 
gained votes. 

He seeks direct contact with the people, 
does them good turns when he can, and re- 
lies on their not forgetting him on election 
day. His heart is always in his work, too, 
for his subsistence depends on its results. 

If he holds his district and Tammany is in 
power, he is amply rewarded by a good 
office and the opportunities that go with it. 
What these opportunities are has been 
shown by the quick rise to wealth of so 
many Tammany district leaders. With the 
examples before him of Richard Croker, 
once leader of the Twentieth District ; John 
F. Carroll, formerly leader of the Twenty- 
ninth ; Timothy ("Dry Dollar") Sullivan, late 
leader of the Sixth, and many others, he can 
always look forward to riches and ease 



while he is going through the drudgery of his 
daily routine. 

This is a record of a day's work by 
Plunkitt : 

2 A.M. : Aroused from sleep by the ringing 
of his door bell ; went to the door and found 
a bartender, who asked him to go to the 
police station and bail out a saloon-keeper 
who had been arrested for violating the ex- 
cise law. Furnished bail and returned to bed 
at three o'clock. 

6 A.M. : Awakened by fire engines passing 
his house. Hastened to the scene of the fire, 
according to the custom of the Tammany 
district leaders, to give assistance to the fire 
sufferers, if needed. Met several of his elec- 
tion district captains who are always under 
orders to look out for fires, which are con- 
sidered great vote-getters. Found several 
tenants who had been burned out, took 
them to a hotel, supplied them with clothes, 



fed them, and arranged temporary quarters 
for them until they could rent and furnish 
new apartments. 

8.30 A.M. : Went to the police court to look 
after his constituents. Found six "drunks." 
Secured the discharge of four by a timely 
word with the judge, and paid the fines of 

9 A.M.: Appeared in the Municipal Dis- 
trict Court. Directed one of his district cap- 
tains to act as counsel for a widow against 
whom dispossess proceedings had been in- 
stituted and obtained an extension of time. 
Paid the rent of a poor family about to be 
dispossessed and gave them a dollar for 

11 A.M. : At home again. Found four men 
waiting for him. One had been discharged by 
the Metropolitan Railway Company for 
neglect of duty, and wanted the district 
leader to fix things. Another wanted a job on 

[ 171 ] 


the road. The third sought a place on the 
Subway and the fourth, a plumber, was look- 
ing for work with the Consolidated Gas 
Company. The district leader spent nearly 
three hours fixing things for the four men, 
and succeeded in each case. 

3 P.M. : Attended the funeral of an Italian 
as far as the ferry. Hurried back to make his 
appearance at the funeral of a Hebrew con- 
stituent. Went conspicuously to the front both 
in the Catholic church and the synagogue, 
and later attended the Hebrew confirmation 
ceremonies in the synagogue. 

7 P.M. : Went to district headquarters and 
presided over a meeting of election district 
captains. Each captain submitted a list of all 
the voters in his district, reported on their 
attitude toward Tammany, suggested who 
might be won over and how they could be 
won, told who were in need, and who were in 
trouble of any kind and the best way to reach 

[ 1'^- ] 


them. District leader took notes and gave 

8 P.M. : Went to a church fair. Took chances 
on everything, bought ice-cream for the young 
girls and the children. Kissed the little ones, 
flattered their mothers and took their fathers 
out for something down at the corner. 

9 P.M. : At the club-house again. Spent $10 
on tickets for a church excursion and prom- 
ised a subscription for a new church-bell. 
Bought tickets for a base-ball game to be 
played by two nines from his district. Lis- 
tened to the complaints of a dozen push- 
cart peddlers who said they were persecuted 
by the police and assured them he would go 
to Police Headquarters in the morning and 
see about it. 

10.30 p. M. : Attended a Hebrew wedding 
reception and dance. Had previously sent 
a handsome wedding present to the bride. 

12 P.M.: In bed. 



That is the actual record of one day in the 
life of Plunkitt. He does some of the same 
things every day, but his life is not so mo- 
notonous as to be wearisome. 

Sometimes the work of a district leader is 
exciting, especially if he happens to have a 
rival who intends to make a contest for the 
leadership at the primaries. In that case, 
he is even more alert, tries to reach the fires 
before his rival, sends out runners to look 
for "drunks and disorderlies" at the police 
stations, and keeps a very close watch on the 
obituary columns of the newspapers. 

A few years ago there was a bitter contest 
for the Tammany leadership of the Ninth 
district between John C. Sheehan and 
Frank J. Goodwin. Both had had long ex- 
perience in Tammany politics and both un- 
derstood every move of the game. 

Every morning their agents went to their 
respective headquarters before seven o'clock 



and read through the death notices in all the 
morning papers. If they found that anybody 
in the district had died, they rushed to the 
homes of their principals with the informa- 
tion and then there was a race to the house of 
the deceased to offer condolences, and, if the 
family were poor, something more sub- 

On the day of the funeral there was an- 
other contest. Each faction tried to surpass 
the other in the number and appearance of 
the carriages it sent to the funeral, and more 
than once they almost came to blows at the 
church or in the cemetery. 

On one occasion the Goodwinites played a 
trick on their adversaries which has since 
been imitated in other districts. A well- 
known liquor dealer who had a considerable 
following died, and both Sheehan and Good- 
win were eager to become his political heir 
by making a big showing at the funeral. 



Goodwin managed to catch the enemy 
napping. He went to all the Hvery stables in 
the district, hired all the carriages for the 
day, and gave orders to two hundred of his 
men to be on hand as mourners. 

Sheehan had never had any trouble about 
getting all the carriages that he wanted, so he 
let the matter go until the night before the 
funeral. Then he found that he could not 
hire a carriage in the district. 

He called his district committee together 
in a hurry and explained the situation to 
them. He could get all the vehicles he needed 
in the adjoining district, he said, but if he did 
that, Goodwin would rouse the voters of the 
Ninth by declaring that he (Sheehan), had 
patronized foreign industries. 

Finally, it was decided that there was 
nothing to do but to go over to Sixth Avenue 
and Broadway for carriages. Sheehan made a 
fine turnout at the funeral, but the deceased 



was hardly in his grave before Goodwin 
raised the cry of " Protection to home indus- 
tries, " and denounced his rival for patroniz- 
ing livery-stable keepers outside of his dis- 
trict. The cry had its effect in the primary 
campaign. At all events, Goodwin was elect- 
ed leader. 

A recent contest for the leadership of the 
the Second district illustrated further the 
strenuous work of the Tammany district 
leaders. The contestants were Patrick Div- 
ver, who had managed the district for years, 
and Thomas F. Foley. 

Both were particularly anxious to secure 
the large Italian vote. They not only attend- 
ed all the Italian christenings and funerals, 
but also kept a close lookout for the mar- 
riages in order to be on hand with wedding 

At first, each had his own reporter in the 
Italian quarter to keep track of the mar- 

[ 177 ] 

riages. Later, Foley conceived a better plan. 
He hired a man to stay all day at the City 
Hall marriage bureau, where most Italian 
couples go through the civil ceremony, and 
telephone to him at his saloon when any- 
thing was doing at the bureau. 

Foley had a number of presents ready for 
use and, whenever he received a telephone 
message from his man, he hastened to the 
City Hall with a ring or a watch or a piece of 
silver and handed it to the bride with his con- 
gratulations. As a consequence, when Div- 
ver got the news and went to the home of the 
couple with his present, he always found that 
Foley had been ahead of him. Toward the 
end of the campaign, Divver also stationed a 
man at the marriage bureau and then there 
were daily foot races and fights between the 
two heelers. 

Sometimes the rivals came into conflict at 
the death-bed. One night a poor Italian ped- 

[ 178 ] 

dler died in Roosevelt Street. The news 
reached Divver and Foley about the same 
time, and as they knew the family of the 
man was destitute, each went to an under- 
taker and brought him to the Roosevelt Street 

The rivals and the undertakers met at the 
house and an altercation ensued. After much 
discussion the Divver undertaker was se- 
lected. Foley had more carriages at the fu- 
neral, however, and he further impressed the 
Italian voters by paying the widow's rent for 
a month, and sending her half a ton of coal 
and a barrel of flour. 

The rivals were put on their mettle toward 
the end of the campaign by the wedding of a 
daughter of one of the original Cohens of the 
Baxter Street region. The Hebrew vote in 
the district is nearly as large as the Italian 
vote, and Divver and Foley set out to cap- 
ture the Cohens and their friends. 



They stayed up nights thinking what they 
would give the bride. Neither knew how 
much the other was prepared to spend on a 
wedding present, or what form it would 
take; so spies were employed by both sides 
to keep watch on the jewelry stores, and the 
jewelers of the district were bribed by each 
side to impart the desired information. 

At last Foley heard that Divver had pur- 
chased a set of silver knives, forks and 
spoons. He at once bought a duphcate set 
and added a silver tea service. When the 
presents were displayed at the home of the 
bride, Divver was not in a pleasant mood and 
he charged his jeweler with treachery. It may 
be added that Foley won at the primaries. 

One of the fixed duties of a Tammany dis- 
trict leader is to give two outings every sum- 
mer, one for the men of his district, and the 
other for the women and children and a 
beefsteak dinner and a ball every winter. 



The scene of the outings is, usually, one of 
the groves along the Sound. 

The ambition of the district leader on 
these occasions is to demonstrate that his 
men have broken all records in the matter of 
eating and drinking. He gives out the exact 
number of pounds of beef, poultry, butter, 
etc., that they have consumed and professes 
to know how many potatoes and ears of corn 
have been served. 

According to his figures, the average eat- 
ing record of each man at the outing is about 
ten pounds of beef, two or three chickens, a 
pound of butter, a half peck of potatoes, and 
two dozen ears of corn. The drinking records, 
as given out, are still more phenomenal. For 
some reason, not yet explained, the district 
leader thinks that his popularity will be 
greatly increased if he can show that his 
followers can eat and drink more than the 
followers of any other district leader. 


The same idea governs the beefsteak din- 
ners in the winter. It matters not what sort 
of steak is served or how it is cooked ; the dis- 
trict leader considers only the question of 
quantity, and when he excels all others in 
this particular, he feels, somehow, that he is 
a bigger man and deserves more patronage 
than his associates in the Tammany Execu- 
tive Committee. 

As to the balls, they are the events of the 
winter in the extreme East Side and West 
Side society. Mamie and Maggie and Jennie 
prepare for them months in advance, and 
their young men save up for the occasion 
just as they save for the summer trips to 
Coney Island. 

The district leader is in his glory at the 
opening of the ball. He leads the cotillion 
with the prettiest woman present — his 
wife, if he has one, permitting — and spends 
almost the whole night shaking hands with 



his constituents. The ball costs him a pretty 
penny, but he has found that the investment 


By these means the Tammany district 
leader reaches out into the homes of his dis- 
trict, keeps watch not only on the men, but 
also on the women and children; knows 
their needs, their likes and dislikes, their 
troubles and their hopes, and places himself 
in a position to use his knowledge for the 
benefit of his organization and himself. Is it 
any wonder that scandals do not perma- 
nently disable Tammany and that it speed- 
ily recovers from what seems to be crushing 
defeat ? 



SEP 9 1982